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bell7's 999 Challenge

999 Challenge

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1bell7
Edited: Dec 24, 2008, 4:31pm Top

Starting January 1st, 2009, I am going to attempt to read/listen to somewhere between 72 and 81 books. I will start with no overlaps and see what kind of time I have towards the end of the year, at which time I will reevaluate the "no overlaps" plan.

Most of the titles will be determined as I go along, though I have a few filled in as possibilities only. The "recommendations" list in particular is merely to trigger my brain and remember what people recommend to me at various points in the year. The total count and strikeouts will indicate that a book is read.

I will be reviewing books on my 50 Book Challenge thread with a personal goal of "80-ish" books.

1. Award winners
2. New (to me) authors
3. Books about books, reading, or writing
4. Other nonfiction
5. Audiobooks
6. Graphic novels (not including manga)
7. Random Recommendations
8. YA/Children's
9. Books referred to on Lost

Books read so far:


2bell7
Edited: Jul 13, 2009, 6:06pm Top

Awards & Honors:

1. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (2004 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction)
2. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson (2006 National Book Award)
3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2008 Cybil, 2009 Printz Honor, and others)
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009 Newbery)
5. Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox (2008 Printz Honor)
6. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (2008 National Book Award Finalist)
7. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (1983 Newbery Honor)
8. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2009 Printz)
9. Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson (2009 Printz Honor, among others)

CATEGORY COMPLETE 7/13/09

3bell7
Edited: Jul 27, 2009, 3:45pm Top

4bell7
Edited: Jul 3, 2009, 9:39am Top

Books about books, reading, or writing:

1. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall
2. Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott
3. The Pleasure of Reading edited by Antonia Fraser
4. Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby
5. Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
6. Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon
7. Slow Reading by John Miedema
8. Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helen Hanff
9. Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff

CATEGORY COMPLETED 7/3/09

5bell7
Edited: Jun 30, 2009, 9:18am Top

Other nonfiction:

1.The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
2. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi
3. Levels of the Game by John McPhee
4. The Cross by Arthur Blessitt
5. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
6. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
7. Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults ed. by Naomi J. Miller
8. As They See 'Em by Bruce Weber
9. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

CATEGORY COMPLETED 6/30/09

6bell7
Edited: May 25, 2009, 2:43pm Top

Audiobooks:

1. Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
2. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
3. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
4. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
5. 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
6. Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
7. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
8. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
9. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

CATEGORY COMPLETED 5/25/09

7bell7
Edited: Jun 17, 2009, 6:54pm Top

Graphic novels (not including manga):

1. Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman
2. The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
3. Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan
4. Watchmen by Alan Moore
5. Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim, illustrated by Jesse Hamm
6. Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
7. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
8. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa
9. Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier, illustrated by Ben Templesmith

CATEGORY COMPLETED 6/17/09

8bell7
Edited: Aug 20, 2009, 8:24am Top

Random Recommendations:
From anyone - relationship indicated in parentheses

1. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (mother)
2. The Shack by William P. Young (friend)
3. Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (mother)
4. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (cousin)
5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (co-worker)
6. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (co-worker)
7. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (sister)
8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (friends)
9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (brother)

CATEGORY COMPLETED 8/20/09

9bell7
Edited: Jun 9, 2009, 12:03pm Top

YA/Children's:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
2. The Last Knight by Hilari Bell
3. Rogue's Home by Hilari Bell
4. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
5. Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
6. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
7. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
8. The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
9. Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

CATEGORY COMPLETED 6/9/09

10bell7
Edited: Jul 12, 2009, 10:52pm Top

Books referred to on Lost:

1. Bad Twin by Gary Troup
2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
3. Walden Two by B.F. Skinner
4. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
6. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
7. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
9. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

CATEGORY COMPLETED 7/11/09

Possible Lost connections --

Bad Twin: The manuscript from the plane, by author "Gary Troup" (one of those who died on Oceanic 815), which appears in "The Long Con." Familiar names, like Widmore, appear, as well as the Hanso Foundation, and the numbers.

The Brothers Karamazov (*SPOILER WARNING*): Locke hands this to Ben when we know him only as "Henry Gale," prisoner in the hatch. Similar themes, such as guilt and suffering occur in both the book and Lost. Several characters on the island have killed their fathers. In the introduction, Malcolm V. Jones spoke of the brothers as "types" - Dmitri/sensual, Alyosha/spiritual, Ivan/intellectual. I thought similarly, and might also make the connection of Dmitri/Ben, Alyosha/Locke, Ivan/Jack. Not a one-to-one allegorical correspondence, but interesting similarities. Also, I really hope that the inconclusive ending has nothing to do with Season 6...

Walden Two: Some discussion of predestination vs. free will (a huge theme in Lost), and the idea of a scientific/experimental community is sort of like the Dharma initiative (though quite different in how it's done)

A Brief History of Time: The guard outside the building where Karl's being brainwashed is seen reading this. Though not specifically mentioned on abc.com, I can't help but think that Eloise Hawking's name is also relevant. The nature of time (relative) and as a factor in how we understand the universe is discussed among many other things that set my head spinning.

The Little Prince: (*SPOILER WARNING*) One of the episode titles from Season 5 is "The Little Prince." Thematically, the idea of childlike faith may be a link, and the inability to go home. The book was originally written in French, and during one of the flashes we see Danielle Rousseau's group. (Note - this book doesn't show up on the abc.com Lost book club or on Lostpedia.com's list of literary works.)

Everything That Rises Must Converge: (*SPOILER WARNING* for both the book and the Season 5 finale) This is the book that Jacob is reading when Locke falls out of the window. Most of the short stories in this collection have a character die in the end, and the collection itself was published after O'Connor's death, so I think this may have been a bit of foreshadowing on the part of the Lost writers.

The Pearl: The underwater station that Charlie and Desmond go to The station found by Nicki and Paulo that is used, according to the orientation video, to carry out surveillance the other stations is "The Pearl." The only connection I could think of was that the pearl Kino finds seems to be all he really wants, in a similar way to how the Oceanic 6 thought all would be right if only they got off the island.

Alice in Wonderland: Locke mentions "the white rabbit" in Part 2 of the Pilot, suggesting anything is possible. I didn't connect anything else plotwise.

Through the Looking Glass: The underwater station that Charlie and Desmond go to is the Looking Glass station. Both Alice books are dreams and appropriately surreal.

11ShannonMDE
Oct 22, 2008, 1:46pm Top

The Things they Carried is definitely worth reading.

12nmhale
Oct 22, 2008, 2:01pm Top

I heartily second that!

13bell7
Oct 23, 2008, 10:16am Top

Thanks for the input! I'm looking forward to trying it, as it's a book he highly recommends. My brother's and my tastes don't overlap much -- we both like Harry Potter and The Giver but diverge from there, so I have no idea if I'll like it or not. Sometimes, though, I just like taking recommendations from family and friends because I don't know what might strike me as a good read that I'd never have read otherwise, and it also gives me insight into what kind of books interest them.

14cmbohn
Oct 23, 2008, 1:45pm Top

I'm doing an audiobooks category too. I love to listen to them in the car.

15bell7
Oct 23, 2008, 2:33pm Top

We'll have to compare notes on readers for the audiobooks category! :-) I started listening to books before I went to bed when I was an English major and I read so few books because I wanted to (it was also a great way of getting my mind of things so I could fall asleep!). I like listening to them in the car, too, but my long commuting days are over for now.

16sjmccreary
Oct 24, 2008, 3:26pm Top

I've always got an audio book going in the car, and usually one in the house too - that category would be too easy for me - I'll finish 9 audio books before valentine's day! But what a great example of creativity in defining categories - they (categories) don't have to have anything to do with content, as I took for granted it should. However, I will use my audio books to fulfill my other categories, no different than if I read them in print.

17tututhefirst
Oct 24, 2008, 3:56pm Top

I agree...always have at least one audio book going...I'm a great fan of downloadable ones also--offered by our local library. It sure makes ironing, dishwashing go a lot faster when you can listen to a good book. I can even do some knitting or needlepoint while I "read". i have simply included them in my regular list--- to me it doesn't matter whether my eyes 'read' or my ears. My brain still gets the story!

18bell7
Oct 26, 2008, 10:04am Top

>16 sjmccreary: -- I hadn't really thought about it, but I think only one of my categories defines content (books/reading/writing), and even that's pretty broad. I did purposely try to give myself broad categories so I didn't feel too tied down to books I felt I *should* read instead of what I wanted to.

Re: audiobooks (16 and 17), they do make housework go a lot faster! I will probably listen to Pride and Prejudice tomorrow as I'm cleaning my room. I'm sure I won't have 9 audiobooks finished by Valentine's Day, but I can probably finish 1 a month or faster, depending on length (and how quickly I fall asleep!).

19socialpages
Nov 7, 2008, 3:28am Top

I'm an audio book addict. I've given up listening to the radio in the car, instead I have my current book to listen to. It's amazing our fast you can get through a book. I don't know why but challenging books are easier to finish when you listen rather than read them.

I'm about to experience my first graphic novel, The Trial. It's on hold for me at my local library.

20bell7
Nov 7, 2008, 7:57pm Top

My first graphic novel was V for Vendetta. Hope you enjoy The Trial as much as I liked that one!

The only thing I don't like about audiobooks is that I read faster, but I love listening in the car 'cause I feel like I got more reading time in. :-)

21RidgewayGirl
Nov 29, 2008, 7:50pm Top

I really enjoyed Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, but that might not fit into your graphic novels category because of the (western).

22bell7
Edited: Nov 30, 2008, 9:04am Top

Oh, it would. I should probably change "Western" to "not manga" because that's what I really meant (because I'll read a lot of that without making a category!). I read the first Persepolis this year, and might read the second for the challenge.

23detailmuse
Dec 23, 2008, 9:42am Top

>3 bell7: Elinor Lipman’s specialty is her fast, fun dialogue. I’ve read three of her novels -- my favorite is The Inn at Lake Devine, a coming-of-age story involving anti-Semitism at a 1960s Vermont inn.

>4 bell7: oh you must take a look at the essays about books and reading and language in Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. Outstanding!

I also have The Things They Carried in my 999 challenge. I look forward to your impressions.

I love Lost! (more so in the early seasons than lately, but still...) Where will you find titles for that category?

24bell7
Dec 23, 2008, 11:23am Top

>23 detailmuse: detailmuse, Thanks for your suggestion for Elinor Lipman. Her books have been highly recommended to me, and I look forward to trying something new.

I read Ex Libris this year, and enjoyed it very much - one of my absolute favorites of the year! That and 84, Charing Cross Road prompted #4 as one of my categories for 2009.

As for the Lost category (isn't it a great show? I loved the finale of Season 4), ABC.com has a "book club" link that includes the books referred to in Seasons 1-4 here. I expect that when Season 5 begins next month that I can have even more to chose from.

25detailmuse
Dec 23, 2008, 12:01pm Top

ooh, now I've got to get 84, Charing Cross Road! I keep seeing it on LT but hadn't looked it up. Thanks for the Lost link!

26bell7
Jan 1, 2009, 11:50am Top

>detailmuse, hope you like 84 Charing Cross Road, it's a quick little read but very good.

I'm off and running for 2009, having finished Lost in a Good Book (Category 7, Recommendations) this morning.

27bonniebooks
Jan 5, 2009, 9:50am Top

>3 bell7:, I read Isabelle's Bed first so really loved it, but it was also good timing as I was about that age and recently divorced. I think The Inn at Lake Devine is great too and may be more appealing to you. Behind the Scenes at the Museum remains my favorite Kate Atkinson.

28bell7
Edited: Jan 5, 2009, 10:11pm Top

Well, I'm off to the library today, so as two people have recommended it, I think I'll check out The Inn at Lake Devine for my new-to-me author category.

>27 bonniebooks: Thanks for your suggestion on a Kate Atkinson book. I'll have to check that out once I finish a few more library books. (I try to limit myself to five books at a time, but it doesn't always happen)

Edited to fix typo/misspelling (kinda helps the touchstones...)

29Elee
Jan 5, 2009, 10:27pm Top

Hi bell7. Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors! I would have to second bonniebooks' suggestion of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, as it is also my favourite Kate Atkinson book. However, I have a bit of a crush on Jackson Brodie, the main character of her last 3 books - Case Histories, One Good Turn, and When Will There Be Good News?. They are very different to Behind the Scenes at the Museum - detective stories, rather than a story about family. So, if you think you would prefer detective stories, I would suggest maybe beginning with Case Histories instead because you could then read the next two in order as they are loosely grouped as a series. I look forward to reading your thoughts on whichever book you decide to read.

30bell7
Jan 5, 2009, 10:34pm Top

Thanks, Elee! I'm not sure which I prefer, it might depend on my mood or the day. But I'll take your suggestions into consideration.

Oh, and for folks that want to see my thoughts on the books I've read, I've been posting here on the 50 Book Challenge thread. I just didn't want to start two threads where I said the same thing about the same books....But if anyone wants to know about a specific book instead, let me know and I'll do my best to respond with my thoughts.

31bell7
Jan 8, 2009, 9:51am Top

OK, so I've decided that I will also start posting my reviews of books I've read over here as well. I'll keep posting all books I've read (including non-999 challenge books) in my 50 Book Challenge thread that I've linked to above, but this way I can make comments about categories and such that's specific to the challenge. But the reviews are just going to be copied and pasted. :-)

32bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:09pm Top

1. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Category 7, Recommended Reads (could move to Category 1, Award Winners or Category 3, Books about Books/Reading/Writing)

The second in the Thursday Next series (the first is The Eyre Affair) starts soon after the first ends. Thursday is being inundated with requests for appearances on TV shows (she's even asked to create a workout video) after her adventures in the pages of Jane Eyre. The Goliath Corporation is none too happy with her treatment of Jack Schitt; meanwhile, Cordelia Flakk is chasing Thursday down for more PR appearances, and someone seems intent on killing Thursday by coincidence (decrease in entropy occurs every once in awhile, but I'll let Mycroft explain how that happens). As full of deliciously stupid puns and literary references as the first book, and not to be missed. 5 stars.

33bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:10pm Top

2. The Shack by William P. Young
Category 7, Recommended Reads (could move to Category 2, New to me Authors)

Mack hasn't been the same ever since his youngest daughter, Missy, was kidnapped during a camping trip he took with three of his children. Her body was never found but the trail ended at a shack in the woods. Now he's received a note asking him to go to this shack, and it's signed "Papa." As this is his wife's favorite name for God, this seems like some sort of cruel joke. But when Mack decides to take the trip, his life will never be the same.

The book is a very emotional, internal read. Not much happens in terms of plot, but we're mostly along with Mack during a series of conversations and interactions. Some of the conversations seemed a little transparent and heavy-handed at times, but the book made me think about my relationships with God and others, resonating for some time afterwards. 4 stars.

34bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:10pm Top

3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Category 4, General Nonfiction

When college professor Randy Pausch learned that he had only months to live, he decided to live life to the fullest. He and his family moved so his wife could be close to family when he died; he made memories with his children. He had been scheduled to give a lecture, and instead of canceling, he gave a lecture about "living your childhood dreams."

An inspiring tale, I was often reminded of Tuesdays with Morrie, the difference being that this is told in the first-person by the dying man himself, rather than the man's protegee. Divided into five larger, thematic sections, there are short vignettes from Randy's childhood, adulthood, family life, work life, and just general experience in which he tells you how he lived his life and imparts wisdom on various subjects such as "how to maximize your time." I laughed, I teared up, and I remembered defining moments in my own life along the way. A quick read that packs a lot of punch. 5 stars.

35bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:12pm Top

4. Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery, read by Susan O'Malley
Category 5, Audiobooks (could move to Category 8, YA/Children's)

The fifth in the "Anne" series, newly married Anne moves to Four Winds with her husband, Dr. Gilbert Blythe. In her new home, she meets new people like Captain Jim, the keeper of the lighthouse, Leslie, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and the unique Miss Cornelia, who hates men and entertains them all with her pronouncements.

This was a reread for me. Though I already knew what to expect in terms of the story, reading it now as an adult was very different from when I was a young teen. Then, I was rather scandalized by some of Miss Cornelia's ways and Leslie's strongly emotional outbursts. This time around, Miss Cornelia was much funnier and though I couldn't really relate to Leslie's feelings I could understand them a little bit more. I think calling this a "teen" novel is a bit of a misnomer. 4.5 stars.

Currently reading - 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (Category 3) and Krakatoa (Category 4)
Currently listening to - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Category 5 or 3) - found out this was abridged and will count it only after reading the book

36bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:12pm Top

5. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall
Category 3, Books about Books/Reading/Writing

This refers to the 2006 edition.

In his introduction, Peter Boxall writes about the difficulty of compiling such a finite list. As many books as it contains, it covers hundreds of years of fiction (and some nonfiction) writing, and could hardly cover all books you ought to read, ever. The chosen titles are organized chronologically by publication date. Each summary begins with the author's birth and death dates, the date of publication, and the publisher. Depending on the book and author, we are also told other information, such as the author's real name or an award the book won. Then, one of the 100 contributors summarizes and offers a bit of literary criticism in approximately 300 words.

Of the completed offering, the editor writes, "this book reflects a set of priorities that are shared by today's readers, a certain understanding of where the novel comes from, a particular kind of passion for reading" (9). This was an interesting way to read the list, as I kept reflecting on what each choice had to say about the world we live in now and the worldview of the contributors. Especially in the largest section - the 20th century - many of the choices seem to question authority, religion, government, or push the boundaries of fiction itself. Though I haven't read many on the list (56), and don't really want to read many more (approx. 71), but I found it interesting reading all the same. One thing I found extremely frustrating was that many of the summaries summarized to the end of the book. So if you are planning on reading all the 1001 books, I recommend that you use the book mainly for reference and don't read the summary until afterwards so you don't get any spoilers for those titles you're not familiar with. 4 stars.

37boookywooky
Edited: Jan 16, 2009, 11:09am Top

bell7, I found your thread! :) I agree with you about 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, in that it should be dipped into rather than read cover to cover if you intend on reading the books.

No LOST books yet? *pulls disappointed face* I've been told that Foucault's Pendulum maybe one for Season 5 - I don't know why because I don't do spoilers… interesting though. :)

38bell7
Jan 17, 2009, 3:09pm Top

That is interesting! They have such an interesting variety of books featured, ranging from classics to Stephen King. I haven't started that category yet, no. Mainly it's been a practicality issue. Since most of the books I read come from the library, I often find myself reading books roughly in the order they're due back. But Bad Twin is on my shortlist of TBR books. I know it's basically a gimmick, but I'm curious. Also, I'm thinking about possibly trying out The Brothers Karamazov, so I'm balancing it out with a shorter, (and I expect, easier) book as well.

39bell7
Edited: Jan 17, 2009, 5:13pm Top

6. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi
Category 4, General Nonfiction

This is the second book I've read by this author, who also wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran. Though both books are nonfiction about her life in Iran, this one is much broader in scope than the first. Things I've Been Silent About focuses much more on her personal life, particularly her relationship with her parents. Written in roughly chronological order from before her parents were married through the early 2000s, the narrative covers many years in Iran and the U.S. with a very personal focus on historical and political events going on in the background. For those memories that seem particularly poignant, she lapses into the present tense taking the reader into the moment with her. Her memoirs are often sad, but beautifully written. Here is a sample of her writing, from the prologue when she discusses the meaning of the title: "There are so many different forms of silence: the silence that tyrannical states force on their citizens, stealing their memories, rewriting their histories, and imposing on them a state-sanctioned identity. Or the silence of witnesses who choose to ignore or not speak the truth, and of victims who at times become complicit in the crimes committed against them. Then there are the silences we indulge in about ourselves, our personal mythologies, the stories we impose upon our real lives" (xxi). This book speaks of all these types of silences. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

Currently reading - Bird by Bird and The Inn at Lake Devine
Currently listening to - Shakespeare: The World as Stage

40bell7
Jan 17, 2009, 6:23pm Top

7. The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
Category 2, New-to-me Authors

detailmuse and bonniebooks, thanks for recommending this title!

In the 1960s, Natalie Marx and her family are looking into various hotels and cottages around Lake Devine, where they're going to be vacationing. Most get back to them with rates and accommodations, but one in particular, the Inn at Lake Devine, suggests that Gentiles would feel more comfortable in this lodging. Natalie becomes somewhat fascinated with the establishment that would flout laws (she sent the proprietor a copy of the Civil Rights Act), and finagles her way into a visit.

This is hardly even the crux of the story, but the plot is much more delightfully fun when you don't know what's coming. Natalie is the narrator as well as the main character, and she's a fun person to be "in the head" of. All the characters were great: I never had the sense that any of the secondary characters were cookie cutter or background, all of them felt very real. Also, it was a somewhat "local" New England story, so it was fun recognizing a surprisingly large number of locations mentioned in the tale. Though racism is a main theme throughout, it's dealt with both seriousness and humor and isn't a heavy story. I'm definitely going to be looking to read more by this author. 4.5 stars.

41bell7
Edited: Jan 18, 2009, 2:25pm Top

8. Levels of the Game by John McPhee
Category 4, Nonfiction

In 1968, the U.S. Open Championship was first opened to amateur players. They weren't expected to do very well against the players on the pro tour, but both Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner made it to the semifinals. This is the story of that game. McPhee starts right off with the first serve, moving cinematically for a close shot of several points, then backing out to focus on the perspective of someone in the player's box or watching the match on television, or maybe taking a panoramic shot of the background of one of the players and how they started playing tennis, and moving in again for a closeup of a game or two.

I chose this read because in an interview recently the author of The Best Game Ever, Mark Bowden, said that it served as a model for his writing in his book about the 1958 Championship football game. The book, published in 1969, is a little dated in the description of the "modern" game of tennis, and by comments made by some of the players, like "he plays like that because he's white" or "because he's black", or he has a "Latin temperament". McPhee was definitely at his best describing moments in the match, a tense point, a solid ace, and the reaction of players and fans. A worthwhile read that left a smile on my face in the end. 4.5 stars.

42bell7
Jan 20, 2009, 9:42am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

43bell7
Edited: Jan 20, 2009, 9:53am Top

9. Bad Twin by Gary Troup
Category 9, Books from Lost

Paul Artisan is a private detective in California, where the cases he receives are mostly petty disputes and insurance fraud. But when Cliff Widmore appears and asks him to find his twin, Artisan knows this case won't be like the others he's had before. He's not sure who to trust or which is really the "bad" twin. The book itself is the "manuscript" that Hurley and Sawyer read in Season 2 of Lost, written by author "Gary Troup" who died in the plane crash. Other connections include the Hanso Foundation (located on floor 42 of the Widmore Building), repetition of the numbers, and a comment about the Paik's business.

This is one of those rare books that I finished thinking, "I could've written better than that." Granted, it had a compelling story and characters, but the writing was full of misplaced adjectives and jarring similes. For example: "The sloop--a good size, maybe forty feet, a third of a million dollars' worth of fiberglass and teak with the name Escape Hatch etched into the transom--was lifted in a giant wooden cradle in the hanger-like shed of Hap's Marina; there was something rude and almost obscene about the sight of the boat's raised, bare bottom, its stiff keel stabbing downward like the penis of an excited whale" (53). After that, I didn't read the descriptions to closely, but even then the story structure was somewhat unbelievable until it finally came down to the last four pages of Paul Artisan explaining, "Oh, I talked to ---, so now I can tell you exactly what's been happening." Not recommended. 2 stars.

Currently reading - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Currently listening to - Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

44boookywooky
Edited: Jan 21, 2009, 2:55pm Top

So, Bad Twin turned out to be as bad as we feared - that's a shame. I think I'll avoid that one for a while longer, or at least until it turns up in the library. Like you say, there are some fantastic choices in the Lost book club, so it's not that big a deal.

I do hope you'll join us in the Brothers K read. It would be good to have a fellow Lostie to compare notes with. I think 'daddy issues' may be a theme in the book. Sounds familiar :)

I hope you're suitably prepared for tonight. :)))

45detailmuse
Jan 21, 2009, 8:08am Top

>40 bell7: And every time I hear Massa-chu-setts I think of the book :)

46bell7
Jan 21, 2009, 10:12am Top

>44 boookywooky:, oh goodness Bad Twin was worse than I thought. Even the stuff in the book that was related to Lost is pretty much covered in the TV show. Oh, and I shamelessly stole your idea of briefly summarizing connections to Lost in one message. Hope you don't mind. :-) The writeup in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die convinced me to give the Brothers K a try. I hope a group read will keep me on task and also help me with anything confusing (I love some classics, but some are just hard). And I'm definitely prepared for tonight! My brother and I are counting down the hours, and I'm looking forward to two hours of explan...I mean, confusion (and probably an adrenaline rush).

>45 detailmuse:, I only wish that I could figure out a way to fit more of her books into my challenge. :-)

47boookywooky
Jan 21, 2009, 4:16pm Top

Shamelessly steal away :) It'll make it easier for me to find your errr… evidence (or evidence of confusion).

Yep, I figured a group read of the Brothers K would be a good thing too. I know what you mean about classics being hard - I'm even struggling with Emma - or am I just finding it annoying… I don't know. Anyway...

Lost isn't actually shown here until Sunday, but I have a friend Stateside who'll send me the episodes not long after they've aired. We made this arrangement after I got horribly spoiled a couple of seasons ago, but yeah I'm counting down too… tick tick tick. :) And of course I'll watch Sunday too, just in case I missed bits, y'understand.

Enjoy tonight!

48RidgewayGirl
Jan 21, 2009, 4:33pm Top

Thanks for the Elinor Lipman recommendation. I have a book of hers sitting on Mt. Toobie. Maybe once I've got a bit more of my challenge done (especially The Brothers Karamazov) I'll take a break and read it.

I was also intrigued by Levels of the Game and will have to get it for certain golf-obsessed members of my family.

49bell7
Jan 22, 2009, 9:18am Top

>47 boookywooky:, great episode(s)! Definitely more than satisfied my expectations. I know what you mean about "just in case I missed bits," I'm about ready to watch it again online. Does ABC have a different Internet address for the UK (I don't know quite how that works)? I ask because I know in the US they put up the episodes on abc.com the day after airing, so if you have high speed Internet access you might be able to watch it through their website?

>48 RidgewayGirl:, actually Levels of the Game was about a tennis match, but it was very good. What Elinor Lipman book do you have waiting in the wings? I'd be interested in seeing what you thought of it when you get to it. Good luck with Brothers Karamazov in the meantime!

50bell7
Jan 22, 2009, 9:39am Top

10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
Category: YA/Children's

***minor spoilers***

In the sequel to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley has a new journal to write about his troubles with older brother Rodrick. Rodrick has a band that Greg can't stand, picks on Greg, and -- worst of all -- Greg can't do anything about it because Rodrick might let slip the really embarrassing thing that happened over the summer.

Rodrick rules is complete with stick drawings and just as humorous as the first. The characters aren't always nice to each other (and Rodrick throws a party when his parents leave town), but are true to life. It's a quick read, and I highly recommend it for those in middle school and older. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. 5 stars.

51RidgewayGirl
Jan 22, 2009, 2:56pm Top

The Wimpy Kid books are hugely popular among third graders this year. Do kids just mature faster these days? I was reading the Borrowers and stories about plucky orphans at my daughter's age.

52bell7
Jan 22, 2009, 4:58pm Top

Well, my sister read them in fourth and fifth grade, respectively. At that age, I was reading mostly Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, which my sister doesn't read as much because of the tense moments (kidnapping and the like) which I just took in stride. So I guess each kid matures individually in what they can handle, and for that matter, each parent is different on what issues they're more sensitive about (for example, when I was young my mom didn't like Pippi Longstocking 'cause she thought it would encourage bad behavior; I just thought Pippi was funny, and I never would have dreamed of mimicking her). I pushed this one up to middle school mostly because of what I could see as parental issues, more like 6th grade than 8th, and the main character is in middle school. The party is pretty much off-scene because Greg is locked in the basement, and I know what went on because I'm an adult not because I read the book.

53bell7
Jan 23, 2009, 9:29am Top

11. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
Category 5, Audiobooks (could move to nonfiction)

Not too much is known about Shakespeare beyond the basic facts of his life: where he was born, when he was baptized, when and to whom he was married, that he wrote several plays (and acted in them, too), when he died. What is not known is so very enticing: what happened in those years leading up to his arrival on the playwright scene in London? Which play was written first? How large was his vocabulary?

In this brief biography, Bryson explores what (and how) we know what we do about Shakespeare, as well as what we do not. You gain an appreciation for the immense work of scholarship in trying to find out anything about this time period, and get a sense that even what we do know is a pretty incredible amount of information for its time. The audio version read by the author is excellent for getting a sense of his dry sense of humor, seen at its best when discussing the various far-reaching theories about Shakespeare and his plays. 4.5 stars.

54bell7
Jan 26, 2009, 6:32pm Top

12. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Category 3: Books about Books/Reading/Writing

Anne Lamott, a writer of fiction and nonfiction, distills the advice she gives to her creative writing students. Using her two cornerstones of writing -- short assignments and "shitty first drafts" -- a lot of humor, personal stories, and memorable metaphors, this is unlike any writing how-to book I've ever read. She doesn't beat you over the head with "you must write every day" (though she suggests writing at least 300 words a day, even if you only write about how much you don't want to write) or give you a formula. She doesn't making writing sound easy but doable, not overwhelming. It made me want to write again. 5 stars.

55Zmrzlina
Jan 26, 2009, 8:44pm Top

I recommend the Y: The Last Man series for graphic novel. There are 10 books in the series, but I don't know if you want to count all 10 as one. Would be a very expensive one book ;-)

56bell7
Jan 26, 2009, 9:27pm Top

Cool, thanks! I'll look into at least reading the 1st one. Counting series as one is probably a good idea, as each volume doesn't take long and it will help me have more variety in my choices. I'm borrowing most of the books I read from the library anyways... :-)

57bell7
Jan 28, 2009, 8:29pm Top

13. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Category: Award Winners

If you haven't read the other books in the Thursday Next series, than this is a ***spoiler alert*** for those titles.

Now hiding out from the Goliath Corporation in the Well of Lost Plots, Thursday has entered the Character Exchange Program in a never-will-be-published mystery featuring Jack Spratt. Aornis is still dangerously able to make Thursday forget Landon, her eradicated husband, and Miss Haversham is prepping Thursday to take the test to enter Jurisfiction.

Most of the events that The Well of Lost Plots is concerned with takes place in the Book World. We find out more about the history and politics going on in Jurisfiction. The footnoterphone is back, complete with junkfootnotes. Even more fanciful than the first two, I didn't think it held up as strongly but was still an enjoyable read. 4.5 stars.

Currently reading - Krakatoa, The Pleasure of Reading and Wicked
Currently listening to - Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

58LisaMorr
Feb 4, 2009, 3:38pm Top

Love your thread bell7; I enjoyed Reading Lolita in Tehran, so I think I will also like Things I've Been Silent About. And I'm adding The Inn at Lake Devine to my list - thanks for your reviews!

59andreablythe
Feb 4, 2009, 5:22pm Top

Re: 40,
I've had The Inn at Lake Devine on my bookshelf for ages. Based on your review, it sounds like a good read. I guess I will have to dust it off and finally read it.

60bell7
Feb 4, 2009, 5:51pm Top

>58 LisaMorr: and 59, glad to have your input as well. Hope you enjoy The Inn at Lake Devine as much as I did. :-)

LisaMorr, I've been following your thread for graphic novel ideas. I haven't read many that aren't manga, and I'm borrowing my brothers' Maus books to start off with. Any titles you would recommend?

61andreablythe
Feb 4, 2009, 6:05pm Top

Re: 60,

I'm a big fan of graphic novels. Some of my favorites in no particular order are:
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Sandman (series), by Neil Gaiman
Fables (series), by Bill Willingham
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Blankets, by Craig Thompson
Promethea, by Alan Moore

62bell7
Edited: Feb 4, 2009, 6:13pm Top

14. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Category: New-to-me authors

In this reworking of The Wizard of Oz, Elphaba is born, grows up, goes to school, has extremely strong feelings about injustices in the world, and becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. The cast of characters includes humans of all shapes and sizes, Animals (including a Goat who teaches at the school), and animals, as well as familiar characters like Dorothy, the Wicked Witches, and the Good Witch, each with a new twist. Maguire mixes serious moments, such as discussions about the existence of a soul or the nature of evil, and purely weird fantastical elements that left me wondering whether or not I liked the book.

I still don't know if I like the book, which is making it extremely hard to review. The tale is definitely unique, and includes moments that I liked and others I didn't. I'm not planning on reading this book again, but I'd try another book by this author. So, I'm giving it a rather ambivalent rating of 3 stars.

63bell7
Feb 4, 2009, 6:43pm Top

15. The Pleasure of Reading edited by Antonia Fraser
Category: Books about Books

For the bicentenary of the publishing house W. H. Smith, forty writers of the English language talk about their early experiences reading, what reading they do now, and (if possible - not everyone did) their ten favorite books. Many authors -- such as Catherine Cookson, Doris Lessing, A.S. Byatt, and Margaret Atwood -- were names I recognized, though the only author I have read to date is Ruth Rendell. Even so, I loved reading the variety of experiences each had with reading and books. In particular, I loved seeing the same books mentioned, but with very different responses. Also, the various approaches to "top ten" (in order, alphabetically, with a few more titles thrown in) were fun. An absolute pleasure to read; I WANT this book! 5 stars.

64bell7
Feb 4, 2009, 6:47pm Top

>61 andreablythe:, ooh, I loved the Bone series! Unfortunately (I couldn't help myself) I finished it in 2008 and the only ones I could count for the challenge are prequels like "Rose." I've heard really good things about Sandman, so I'll have to push that a little closer to the top of my TBR pile.

65bell7
Edited: Feb 5, 2009, 9:50pm Top

16. The Last Knight by Hilari Bell
Category: YA/Children's

Michael is a knight errant far after it's the fashionable thing to do (try 200 years), and Fisk is his squire. When the boys free a "damsel" from a tower, they had no idea she was being held on murder charges. This sends them on a quest for both of them to redeem themselves. This is a character-centric story told in alternate points of view between Michael and Fisk, which helps the reader get to know them each boy as he sees himself and as the other sees him.

Hilari Bell is one of my favorite young adult fantasy authors, so I snatched this immediately when I saw it at the library. Its plot is meandering at times, but I didn't mind because I loved the characters so much. I was sad when the book ended, and very happy to find out that the sequel had already come out. 4.5 stars.

Currently reading - Krakatoa and The Brothers Karamazov
Currently listening to - Going Postal

66bell7
Feb 6, 2009, 1:31pm Top

17. Maus and
18. Maus II by Art Spiegelman

These two graphic novels chronicle the Holocaust experiences of the author's father, Vladek Spiegelman. The action moves back and forth between the present, with Art and his father talking and bickering, and the story Vladek tells his son about living in Poland during World War 2. The art complements and extends the meaning of the conversations, often playing off stereotypes (for example, the Jewish people are represented as mice, the Polish people as pigs) that bring home the events described all the more powerfully.

Absolutely deserving of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize it received, Maus is not an enjoyable story, but an absolutely necessary one to remember. I highly recommend this sobering, powerful work and would definitely read it again. 5 stars.

PS - The touchstones on this really hate me. I borrowed my brother's graphic novels, which are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. But no matter how I try, I cannot get each of them to come up. So I've linked to The Complete Maus even though it's not what I read. Sorry. :-)

67detailmuse
Feb 6, 2009, 2:58pm Top

I've never read a graphic novel but think I must try Maus.

Just came home with 84, Charing Cross Road ... I want to read it immediately and I want to save it for when my reading needs a jump-start. Ah, conflicting desires!!

68andreablythe
Feb 6, 2009, 3:58pm Top

Re: 64,
FYI, While the first book in the Sandman series Preludes and Nocturns is good it is not the best of the lot. They get better and better as you go along. There is also an overarching storyline that covers the entire 12 (?) books, and sometimes what appears to be simply a short side story turns out to be of greater significance when looked at over the entire arch.

69bell7
Feb 7, 2009, 10:21am Top

>67 detailmuse: - I hope Maus is a good introduction to the format. I've heard it can be challenging for some folks who aren't used to "reading" both the words and the pictures at once, but I think it's definitely worth it. Re: Charing Cross, you could always read it immediately and reread it when needing a jump-start. :-) Whatever you decide, let me know what you think when you've read it.

>68 andreablythe: - thanks, blythe, I'll keep that in mind if I feel so-so about the 1st. I like when seemingly insignificant details turn out to be important - keeps me on my toes.

70detailmuse
Feb 7, 2009, 3:23pm Top

Well I did just gobble up 84, Charing Cross Road and it was a perfect little break (I've been reading one book for weeks and have hesitated starting another which is 500+ pp).

I liked it a lot and think I will send it to my mom as a little Valentine's Day treat :)

71LisaMorr
Feb 11, 2009, 12:59pm Top

Bell,

Catching up on threads here - I see you got some good recommendations on graphic novels. This is a new genre for me, and I have only read Watchmen so far, which I enjoyed.

I have taken a peak at Persepolis and it looks wonderful. I will be reading The Complete Maus as well, and the first in the Sandman series.

It iwll be interesting to see what you think of your graphic novels!

-Lisa

72bell7
Feb 12, 2009, 11:07am Top

>70 detailmuse: detailmuse, glad you enjoyed 84 Charing Cross. I'm hoping to read The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (which is supposed to be a sort of sequel) for my "books about books" category, and can always move it into "nonfiction" if it doesn't fit. :-)

>71 LisaMorr: Lisa, I've been following what you read in that category too. I read V for Vendetta for a young adult literature class in 2007, but wanted to read more graphic novels this year to expand my reading a bit more.

73bell7
Feb 12, 2009, 11:38am Top

19. The Cross: 38,102 miles 38 years 1 mission by Arthur Blessitt (Early Reviewer copy - touchstone doesn't want to load)
Category: Nonfiction

The subtitle "38,102 miles. 38 years. 1 mission." is a little misleading, perhaps suggesting that this is Arthur Blessitt's account of his carrying a cross to every nation on the globe from 1969 to 1998. This is only incidentally the case. The story is very much about The Cross, but instead of being organized chronologically, every chapter is a theme such as "following God's call on your life" or "tearing down walls." Within that chapter, various stories from different years and countries highlight the point as Blessitt challenges his readers to do this in their own lives. Ultimately, it's about his 1 mission to point people to Jesus.

Though his storytelling is mediocre, his passion for evangelism and loving people really shines through. Arthur Blessitt's theme of following God's call no matter what and encouraging others to do the same loosely holds the book together. His approach to writing and inclusion of God's words to his heart, a vision, and phrases most familiar to those who have grown up in church (such as "the miraculous power of God was manifest" (p.121)) may make this book less appealing to some, but it will definitely challenge readers to live their lives boldly for God.

This was my first early reviewer book, and it took me awhile to decide how to rate it. The writing didn't impress me, but his passion did. Maybe it's a little high, but I give it 4 stars.

74bell7
Feb 13, 2009, 6:14pm Top

20. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
Category: Award Winners

Octavian, a slave owned by Mr. Gitney (aka 03-01) of Boston, and son of an African princess, doesn't realize that his childhood - consisting of Latin and violin lessons, experiments and the measuring of his waste - is odd. His narrative begins with impressions from his younger days and gradually follows a more chronological path as he becomes older and more aware of the revolutionary world beyond the College of Lucidity.

This exceptional historical fiction received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2006. The plot took awhile to get going, especially with the short, impressionistic glimpses we get of Octavian's earliest memories, but the writing is superb and the characters so well-drawn and sympathetic that I couldn't help but read on. In the end, I was ready to start the second book as soon as possible. 5 stars.

75RidgewayGirl
Feb 13, 2009, 8:33pm Top

Have just gotten a copy of Bird by Bird based on your review. I'll have to bump something else to read it, so bump I will.

76bell7
Feb 15, 2009, 1:20pm Top

>75 RidgewayGirl: RidgewayGirl - hope you enjoy it! LT does have an (un?)fortunate way of...um...rearranging our TBR list, doesn't it?

77bell7
Edited: Feb 15, 2009, 1:35pm Top

21. Rogue's Home by Hilari Bell
Category: YA/Children's

(Warning: if you haven't read the first book in the series, this is necessarily going to have spoilers for that story.)

Michael and Fisk are on their way back to Baron Seven Oak's, knowing that Michael will soon be declared "unredeemed," when a mysterious messenger gives Fisk a letter. It's pretty much incoherent, except that his sister Anna writes "come home" and that they need him. As in the first book, each chapter switches between Michael's and Fisk's first-person, humorous narratives. This time, we learn much more about Fisk's background and hometown.

I really didn't mean to read this now. I mean, I'm working on The Brothers Karamazov for a group read, and have another huge tome, Drood, waiting to be read as well. But it just cried out to be read, and I knew it would be a quick read...So yeah, I ate it up in about two days and pushed my other reading aside. I figured out the end way before the main characters, but that's really the only gripe I have. 4.5 stars.

78bell7
Feb 17, 2009, 12:36pm Top

22. Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby
Category: Books about Books/Reading/Writing

In his second collection of articles from the Believer, Nick Hornby writes his impressions of various books he has read each month. Continuing where The Polysyllabic Spree left off, the articles are from February 2005 to June/July 2006, and include his thoughts on various books from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson to The Dirt by Motley Crue. Humorous and thoughtful by turns, this is a great addition to any avid reader's bookshelf.

If it weren't for LT, I wouldn't have even known there were sequels to The Polysyllabic Spree, so thanks to all of you who have mentioned them lately! These articles really suit my sense of humor, and I found myself nodding in agreement with some of his comments about some of the reading baggage we carry - about reading "good" books, for example, or that reading must be hard work. These themes are dealt with directly in the preface and come up again from time to time in the articles. I wish I could express my thoughts about that half as well as he does, but as it was I found myself reading passages aloud to my family as I read. 5 stars.

79LisaMorr
Feb 20, 2009, 7:09pm Top

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt sounds great bell! On to the wishlist it goes. Thanks!

80bell7
Feb 20, 2009, 7:12pm Top

>LisaMorr, it was a great little read. I hope you like it! I've requested the third one, Shakespeare Wrote for Money from my library system, and can't wait to read it.

81bell7
Feb 26, 2009, 5:25pm Top

23. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
Category: Audiobooks

Moist von Lipwig, con man extraordinaire who unfortunately got caught, narrowly avoids dying...only to be practically forced into becoming Postmaster at the long-defunct Post Office of Anhk-Morpork. The task is, well, impossible - he has only two employees and a golem for a parole officer to make sure he stays in line. Maybe it's a perfect job for a con man, after all.

Though the 30th in the Discworld series, you don't need to have read any of the others to enjoy the story (I've only read one other one that had nothing at all to do with it). I enjoyed the humor and liked the characters, and Stephen Briggs did an excellent job narrating. 4.5 stars.

82bell7
Feb 28, 2009, 8:57pm Top

Just an update to say I've finished The Brothers Karamazov. I'm still pondering how to write a review, but will post one soon.

83VictoriaPL
Mar 1, 2009, 7:58am Top

Congratulations! I've got about a 100 pages to go of TBK. I've been trying to figure out how to write my review too.

84RidgewayGirl
Mar 1, 2009, 1:09pm Top

I'm not done, but I'm more than halfway! Still, congratulations to you -- for the rest of your life you are someone who's read The Brothers Karamazov.

85bell7
Edited: Mar 1, 2009, 4:34pm Top

24. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Pavlovich has three sons: Dmitri (Mitya) Fyodorovich, Ivan Fyodorovich, and Alexei (Alyosha) Fyodorovich. Each have been affected by their father's "sensualist" nature - dear daddy is a drunkard and carouser, and pretty much left the boys' upbringing to the servant, Grigory. Now adults, Dmitri similarly follows his father in lifestyle and currently has an argument with him regarding his mother's inheritance (added to that, his rival in love), Ivan the intellectual has rejected the idea of God and figures he can do whatever he wants, and Alyosha is training in a monastery. Soon events unfold that will affect the brothers for the rest of their lives.

This story is incredibly hard to sum up without giving spoilers. Coming in at 776 pages long, I'm not sure I would have finished it except for participating in a group read on LT, and if it weren't one of the books referenced in Lost. It definitely had its dull moments, but the second half of the story was a compelling study of people driven by guilt, suffering, and more virtuous motives. I'm glad I pushed through the slower chapters and finished it. 4 stars.

86bell7
Mar 1, 2009, 4:32pm Top

Thanks, Victoria and RidgewayGirl! I was pretty excited when I finished it last night. It's hard to review because 1. there was a lot to it and 2. I didn't want to give spoilers, but much of what I liked was in the second half of the book.

I'm definitely glad I've read it, but it took a lot of work.

87VictoriaPL
Mar 1, 2009, 6:33pm Top

I didn't even attempt to give a summary of TBK, just my impressions. You were generous, I only gave it three stars.

88bell7
Mar 1, 2009, 9:39pm Top

Well, I did really like the second half, it was really just Books 5 and 6 that tripped me up a bit (and those were dull - I would've given up in the middle of "The Grand Inquisitor" if not for the group read).

*spoiler warning* The ambiguity of events (and the narrator's partial recollection of the trial, which added to it) kept me interested through the end. I was sort of frustrated by the rather indefinite ending, but I went back and read the introduction afterward, and it said that there had been a planned sequel.

89bell7
Mar 2, 2009, 1:20pm Top

25. The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
Category: Graphic Novels

While trying to summon Death, the leader of a mysterious order inadvertently captures Dream, imprisoning him for years. This wreaks havoc on the world as we know it, as Dream's tools are used by humans who have no way of coping with their power, and several people become infected with a "sleepy sickness." All Dream can think about is getting free - and then getting revenge.

The first in the Sandman series is a little uneven, very creepy ("24 Hours" was downright scary), and I liked Dream and some of the other characters introduced. I'm definitely going to read the next book in the series to see how things develop. 4 stars.

90bell7
Mar 2, 2009, 7:39pm Top

26. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Category: Graphic Novels (may change to Lost Book Club)

A phenomenon causes all men on the planet to die, except one. Yorick Brown, son of an English professor and a congresswoman, and his monkey Ampersand are apparently the last males living of any species. Nobody knows why. But maybe they can keep the human race from dying out - as long as none of the crazy gangs kill Yorick first.

I thought this set up a great "what if," and had a convincing way of exploring what could happen if most males died. Yorick is an interesting guy - escape artist, English major, and surprisingly well-adjusted for being named after a skull in a play. For you other Lost fans out there, this is the comic that Hurley brings on Flight 316. Recommended for fans of science fiction; I would rate it R, primarily for language and violence. 4.5 stars.

91bell7
Mar 3, 2009, 12:05pm Top

27. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Category: Award Winners

Family and friends still see Frankie as "Bunny Rabbit," a good girl going to a good school who follows the rules and still needs to be protected. But Frankie doesn't see herself that way at all, and she's out to prove that she can think for herself and blaze her own trail.

Frankie is a really likable heroine, and her relationships and schoolmates are believable and sympathetic. I found myself rooting for her even when I didn't 100% agree with her. I was impressed by how different this book was from the only other title I've read by this author, The Boyfriend List. I'm looking forward to reading more. 4.5 stars.

92cmbohn
Mar 5, 2009, 1:26pm Top

Going back a bit, I haven't listened to any of the Pratchett books on audio. Is it as funny as it is in print? Going Postal was the first Pratchett I read and I was hooked.

93bell7
Mar 7, 2009, 9:36am Top

It was just as funny. It was a terrible book to read before going to bed (which is when I listen most often), because if I listened to enough in one night I'd start laughing and not only have trouble falling asleep to it but also have to keep quiet so I didn't bother my family. :-) Going Postal was only my second Discworld book, though I've read more of his YA titles.

94bell7
Mar 7, 2009, 11:29am Top

28. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
Category: Audiobooks

April Epner, adopted daughter of two Holocaust survivors, never really thought much about her birth mother. When her mother Bernice, local TV celebrity and drama queen extraordinaire, shows up out of nowhere, April's fairly quiet life as a single Latin teacher of 36 will never be the same.

By turns sweet and hilarious, this was a fun story set in Boston. The characters were great: I could sympathize with April's mixed feelings towards Bernice (who was sort of annoying but such a funny, wonderful character, too) while they get to know each other. The narrator, Mia Barron, did a fabulous job interpreting the characters and made the dialogue that much more enjoyable. This was my first time using a Playaway, and while I found the format so-so (the sound was tinny and if I fell asleep without pausing it, I had to start over at the beginning of a chapter), the story itself made up for it. 4.5 stars.

95bell7
Edited: Mar 7, 2009, 11:43am Top

29. Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
Category: New-to-me Authors

Laura and Rose have been inseparable since birth. They are cousins, both the daughters of dreamhunters, and expect to soon be allowed into the Place to catch dreams themselves. Only certain people can enter the Place, and even fewer of them have the ability to catch dreams that can then be shared with the populace - exciting dreams like Wild River or healing dreams like Convalescent One. But there seems to be something inexplicably sinister about them...

This first book in the Dreamhunter Duet takes awhile to get going, but once it does it's a compelling read. The story sometimes gets sidetracked into history of dreamhunting or other explication, but the world Knox creates is rich as a result. Mostly told from Laura's perspective, we see her change from a young teen who follows her cousin's lead to someone who takes action. I look forward to seeing where the story goes in Dreamquake. 4 stars.

96bell7
Mar 9, 2009, 10:04am Top

30. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Category: New-to-me Authors

In 1986, the current owner of the Panama Hotel begins remodeling, and finds possessions of several Japanese families who left Seattle in the 1940s when they were sent to internment camps. This discovery makes the news, and reminds newly widowed Henry Lee of his experiences as the son of Chinese immigrants in 1942. "Scholarshipping" in an all-white school, he makes a friend when Keiko Okabe transfers to his school and works alongside him in the cafeteria.

The narrative shifts between 1942 and 1986, and we see past and present from Henry's perspective. Ford evokes a rich sense of place in his descriptions of Seattle neighborhoods and the jazz scene in the 1940s. More a story of internal discovery than external events, the story and its characters insinuated their way into me until I found, to my surprise, that I cared enough to cry. 4.5 stars.

97andreablythe
Edited: Mar 9, 2009, 2:58pm Top

Dreamhunter sounds like a good read. I'll have to add it to my ever-growing list of TBR. It never seems to get shorter.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet looks good, too.

98bell7
Mar 10, 2009, 9:29am Top

It's dangerous to read any thread on this site if you're attempting to make your TBR list shorter. :-)

Both were definitely good reads, and I hope you enjoy them. I have Dreamquake out from the library, and I just have to finish one more book (or maybe two) before I let myself start it (darn those library due dates).

99andreablythe
Mar 10, 2009, 12:38pm Top

I'm right there with you in terms of the library due dates. I'm trying to balance out my reading, so that I'm not stuck with a whole bunch of books to read in one category at the end of the year.

100socialpages
Mar 10, 2009, 3:32pm Top

That is a beautiful review. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is going on my wish list despite the corny title. Unfortunately, I went to the library last night solely to return books but I couldn't help myself: picked up four more books. At this rate I'll never get through my tbr pile as I feel duty bound to read the library books first because of those due dates.
*note to self: stay out of libraries and book stores*

101bell7
Mar 11, 2009, 8:54am Top

>99 andreablythe:, 100 - I read far more library books than books I own. But I feel somewhat justified in that I would never be able to buy all of the 100+ books I read last year. So this way I determined what I would want to reread, and subsequently added those to my personal library. I have, however, given myself a flexible limit of 5 books at a time (it's gone up to 9 since imposing the "limit," so it's not hard and fast). I work at the library several days a week besides owning 50+ books I haven't read, so it's not like I'm running out of reading material.

socialpages, I hope you enjoy Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; I'm glad you liked my review.

102bell7
Mar 11, 2009, 2:37pm Top

31. Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
Category: Recommended Reads

Thursday Next has been the Bellman for a couple of years now, but she's ready to go back to the real world. Along with Hamlet (who's concerned about the outside world's perception of him as a ditherer), Thursday returns determined to get her husband Landen uneradicated and to send Yorrick Kaine back to the Bookworld where he belongs.

For months, my mom has been begging me to read this book, the fourth in a series that I first recommended to her. So she was pleased when I finally got to it, laughed at loud on several occasions, and promptly finished it only to revisit some favorite parts with her. I recommend reading Hamlet first, as it will make the bookish humor that much more enjoyable. 4.5 stars.

103bell7
Mar 15, 2009, 12:59pm Top

32. Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
Category: Books about Books

The last in his collection of article written for The Believer, Shakespeare Wrote for Money is just as funny as the first two. The dates on the articles are from August 2006 to September 2008, and include a wide range of books read from YA titles to a biography of Shakespeare.

I love getting the perspective of someone that's intelligent and interesting and humorous and feels like a real reader telling a friend what they liked or didn't like about the books they've read lately. That's the main reason these books appeal to me. Even when I'm not all that interested in the books he's talking about, I enjoy reading about his experiences as a reader instead of reading a more objective, professional review that tells me lots about a book but little about someone's experience reading it. 4.5 stars.

104bell7
Mar 15, 2009, 1:08pm Top

33. 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
Category: Audiobooks

Cecelia Randall, grieving from the death of her daughter, decides to divorce her husband, Ian, who was unable to be with her when the baby was born, lived, or died because of his Navy obligations. This is one of several story threads that run through 16 Lighthouse Road, which also follows the stories of other Cedar Cove residents, including divorced judge Olivia, and her friend Grace, over the course of several months.

I'm not really sure why I pushed through to finish this book, since it just wasn't working for me. I had trouble following all the different characters - while I could keep track of them all, the story shifts made it hard for me to care about one or the other because when I was getting close, the story moved again. Furthermore, these shifts meant that sometimes changes in a character that happened over weeks were summarized in a paragraph instead of shown through changes in attitude or behavior. A story I may have enjoyed more in a different mood. 2 stars.

105bell7
Mar 15, 2009, 1:18pm Top

34. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Category: Audiobooks

Alanna and her twin, Tom, are not happy with their father's plans for them - Alanna to be trained as a lady and Tom as a knight. So Alanna cooks up a plan to switch places (their scholar father will never notice) so they can follow their dreams: Alanna to become a knight and Tom, a sorcerer. But what will happen if she's discovered?

While I found the story mostly predictable, I liked Alanna and the friends she makes, and enjoyed the stories about her training. I look forward to continuing the series. 4.5 stars.

106bonniebooks
Mar 15, 2009, 1:31pm Top

I just got Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Hornby based on so many LTer's recommendations. I almost don't want to start reading it though as I'm afraid I'll have even more books to put on my TBR list. ;-}

107bell7
Mar 15, 2009, 3:55pm Top

bonniebooks, isn't that just the trouble with reading books about books? I'm just asking for trouble using that as a category. Actually, my reading is pretty dissimilar from Hornby's, except when he started talking about YA, so my TBR pile only grew slightly. I have no doubt, however, that many readers will have the very reaction you fear. :-)

108bell7
Mar 15, 2009, 4:03pm Top

35. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Category: Award Winners

Nobody ("Bod") Owens, orphaned by a man Jack who killed everyone in the family but failed to kill the toddler, lives in a graveyard. The many residents of the graveyard have a hand in raising him, particularly his foster parents, the Owenses, and his guardian, Silas. Somewhere out in the wider world, however, Jack still wants to finish his job.

This year's Newbery Award winner is pretty much as odd as you would expect if you've read any of Neil Gaiman's other books. I liked the premise and the details of life in the graveyard, such as the lessons that teachers long dead taught Bod and the addition of dates and inscriptions after the mention of various inhabitants. Some readers may enjoy the nods to The Jungle Books, but you don't have to be familiar with Kipling's work to enjoy this one. 4 stars.

109bonniebooks
Mar 15, 2009, 5:44pm Top

Yeah, and guess what I was doing these last couple of hours--reading Hornby! I'm such a liar! Great fun, but I didn't stop to add any books to my list right then. Of course, I don't have to because I can always refer to the book (and my turned-down corners).

110bell7
Mar 16, 2009, 11:05am Top

LOL, no delayed gratification at all, huh? I often read books in order based partly on mood and partly on library due date, but found myself moving the Hornby books to the top of my TBR shortlist quickly because I knew I would enjoy it and they're such short books that I knew I would devour them quickly and be able to move on to the books that were due sooner. Twisted logic, I suppose, but who can resist when books call out to be read?

111cmbohn
Mar 16, 2009, 2:05pm Top

I loved The Graveyard Book. I think it's my favorite this year.

112tracyfox
Mar 19, 2009, 9:51am Top

I can't wait to locate the Nick Hornby essays. To think how many times I bypassed The Believer at the bookstore, thinking it was some sort of religious publication. Thanks for your review.

113bell7
Mar 19, 2009, 10:23am Top

>111 cmbohn: cmbohn, glad you liked The Graveyard Book. It wasn't one of my favorites, but I'll be the first to acknowledge that part of that was probably a what-I'm-in-the-mood-to-read reaction. I think I'm just going through a period of, after loving several books in a row, simply liking a few books in a row. If I reread it at some future time, my reaction might be quite different.

>112 tracyfox: tracyfox, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! I read The Polysyllabic Spree a few years ago and only knew there were more because of LT.

114bell7
Edited: Mar 21, 2009, 5:53pm Top

36. Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox
Category: Young Adult

The second book in the Dreamhunter Duet starts before the first ends - there's about 15-20 pages of overlap told from a slightly different point of view. From there, we learn where Laura went to hide after delivering a horrible nightmare that had been used to keep convicts in line to a large number of people in order to bring awareness to what Cas Doran and his Regulatory Body has been up to. Rose soon finds out that this isn't the only thing they're up to, so the fact that nobody seems to care that this nightmare is used on convicts quickly moves to the background.

Like Dreamhunter, Dreamquake starts a little slowly, but steadily builds momentum as the reader and characters discover just what is going on with dreams and the Place. I grew a little frustrated that I figured out a lot before the main characters did, but overall it was an enjoyable read. 4 stars.

115bell7
Edited: Mar 21, 2009, 5:53pm Top

37. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Category: Young Adult

The second in the Song of the Lioness quartet starts a few months after Alanna: The First Adventure ended. Alanna, now Prince Jonathan's squire, is traveling when a storm forces her to seek shelter. That night, she meets a new friend - a cat with eyes as violet as her own - and the Goddess herself, who gives her advice about what is to come.

I read the book in one evening. The plot seems meandering, but is really more of a journey, as Alanna prepares to become a knight. A couple of years go by very quickly, which sometimes makes events that were probably a bit slower to occur in the internal chronology happen very quickly. All my favorite characters - Alanna, Jonathan, George, and the rest - were back in this entertaining tale. 4.5 stars.

116bell7
Mar 25, 2009, 9:24am Top

38. Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Category: Young Adult/Children's (darn it, I knew I would fill up this category too fast)

Christian ran away from home when he was six. Living with his foster father in the forest for eleven years, Chris doesn't regret it for a minute - he has a happy (if isolated) life with his two dogs and distantly watches Princess Marigold throuhg a telescope from outside his house. But now it's time for him to leave the life he's known and seek his fortune.

Though I enjoyed several aspects of this story, Once Upon a Marigold was clearly written for readers younger than me. The seventeen-year-old protagonists often seemed a bit young in their thoughts and actions and the narrator had a habit of making pronouncements in a way that irritated me. The direction of the plot was clear early on, though it was entertaining to see how it all came together. Edric the troll was a great character, and I enjoyed his merged sayings that seem to almost make sense. A quick, fun read that I would've enjoyed more fifteen years ago. 4 stars.

117bell7
Mar 25, 2009, 9:30am Top

39. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Category: New to Me Authors

Ruby Lennox knew almost from conception that she was unwanted. Her mother Bunty, father George, and sisters Patricia and Gilliam live Above the Shop (a pet shop) that George and Bunty grudgingly own and run. Ruby insightfully narrates their lives, inserting "footnotes" between each chapter that detail the lives of her ancestors.

I'm finding it difficult to summarize my impressions. The story that unfolds of an ordinary family kept me reading primarily because of Ruby's voice rather than my interest in the characters (I was often annoyed with them) or the plot (internal and retrospective even while being narrated in present tense). At times beautifully descriptive, it was an often unsettling story that I found compelling even when I didn't enjoy it. 3.5 stars.

118bell7
Mar 30, 2009, 12:57pm Top

40. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Category: Audiobooks

After hearing so much about the Jeeves and Wooster stories between LT and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I thought I should give the series a try. My Man Jeeves is a collection of short stories, most of which are narrated by Bertie Wooster, about the scrapes he and his friends get into and how his servant, Jeeves, always brilliantly saves the day. The middle stories were narrated by a guy named Reggie, who didn't have a servant to save the day, but were much the same otherwise (I was a little confused by this interlude, and wondered if there was an error in the audio file).

The stories were amusing but, as a few people have mentioned in their reviews, repetitive. I often found myself confused about where I'd left off, so it took me two weeks to finish even though it was a fairly short book. Simon Prebble was a good narrator who did an admirable job of dealing with both British and American accents. I think this is the first in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, but if these stories were any indication of the books as a whole, they can be read in any order. 4 stars.

119bell7
Edited: Apr 17, 2009, 10:41am Top

41. Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear
Category: New-to-me Authors

Matthew is a magician in New York City, a member of the Promethans, who works to protect humans from the Fae that would steal them into their world as changelings. Elaine is a human bound to the Faerie world by the Mebd, one of the Queens of Faerie, and by her loyalty to her son, Ian. She is also the Seeker, one who prowls shadows looking for Fae children. A collision of their worlds seems inevitable, but as players are drawn into events beyond their control the morality of either side becomes ambiguous.

This urban fantasy is a bit different from my normal fare -- darker, more sensual than the fantasy I usually choose to read. I kept going because I wanted to see what would happen to Elaine and the other characters, if their fates were truly predetermined or if they could choose a different outcome. Bear throws readers into her alternate universe and leaves them to discover along with her characters (a knowledge of Arthurian legend and the ballad of Tam Lin would be especially helpful). I'm interested in seeing where the series heads from here. 4 stars.

ETA: Wrong touchstone, it just doesn't want to work for me today.

120bell7
Apr 17, 2009, 10:40am Top

Watchmen by Alan Moore
Category: Graphic Novels

(I'm letting this one go uncounted to bring my tally up right, since I changed my mind about how to count Graphic Novels as only one per series)

What is there once had been masked vigilantes, humans insipred by superhero comics, roaming the streets of New York City to keep the world safe? In this sydtopian vision of just such a world, such activism has been outlawed since 1977 and most of those who participated have retired. But then one of them is murdered, and no one knows why or if the killer will strike again.

I'm glad to be able to say I've read this title, but I didn't particularly enjoy it. It was gritty and violent and depressing and just not the kind of story I like. It's a complex story that I read much slower than I expected to. Recommended for fans of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, maybe even hard-boiled mystery fans who want to read something a little different. Just not my cup of tea. 2 stars.

121bell7
Apr 17, 2009, 10:43am Top

42. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Category: New-to-me authors

Aibileen is a black woman working for Elizabeth Leefolt taking care of Mae Mobley. Minny is Mrs. Walters' maid, constantly at odds with her employer's daughter for speaking her mind. And Eugenia Phelan (more commonly known as "Skeeter") is an educated white woman who didn't really think about "the help" too much until her own family's maid disappeared. These women at first appear disparate, but find that they are alike where it truly counts.

This historical fiction set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 is surprisingly hopeful in tone, even while depicting tragic and horrific events in history. The narrative voices of Aibilieen, Minny and Skeeter tell us most of the story, each with a distinctive voice and point of view, and the characters feel very real. An emotional but overall uplifting read. 4.5 stars.

122bell7
Edited: Apr 17, 2009, 10:54am Top

43. Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon
Category: Books about Books

Well, I heard about this on another thread and could hardly pass up the chance to read something about Jane Austen! This is about an aunt who (much like Jane Austen before her) corresponds with a niece interested in writing novels. The niece, Alice, is a fictional girl of green-and-black colored hair who can't imagine why Jane Austen would be considered relevant today.

The blend of fiction and literary criticism threw me for a loop at first. The first few letters talk about Jane Austen's life and times, then move on to talk about, in turn, each of her novels and peppered with advice about reading, writing, and listening (or not) to critics. In fact, this struck me as much more about the act of writing than about Jane Austen in particular. At times witty, and other times confusing, sometimes I agreed and at others I wholeheartedly disagreed. But that, as I'm sure "Aunt Fay" would agree, is one of the joys of visiting the City of Invention. 3.5 stars.

123bell7
Edited: Apr 17, 2009, 10:55am Top

44. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Category: Award Winners and Honors (National Book Award Finalist, 2008)

The year is 1776. Isabel's owner, Miss Finch, has died. She left a will freeing Isabel and her sister Ruth, but Miss Finch's nephew is in a hurry and the lawyer is in Boston -- unreachable given the current unrest. He sells the girls to a couple who live in New York. Upon arrival in her new home, Isabel meets Curzon, a fellow slave and Patrio who claims they can contact the lawyer if she'll spy for his side.

The narrative weaves a convincing and nuanced tale in which even the side of libery is not all that interested in the plight of slaves. Each chapter is titled the dates it covers (which could be a day or nearly two months), followed by a quote from historical writing -- a letter, a journal entry -- that also highlights the exploration of liberty and justice in the Revolutionary War. I look forward to the sequel. 4.5 stars.

124andreablythe
Apr 17, 2009, 12:43pm Top

Re: 120

Watchmen is indeed dark, and it was very slow reading for me, too, the first time I read it. I loved it though. But i like dystopian and post-apocalyptic, as you said.

It is definitely not for everybody, but as a work of art, it definitely deserves kudos.

125bell7
Apr 17, 2009, 1:24pm Top

>134 blythe, yeah, that's kind of what I came away with. Not my type of story, but still glad I read it, and now I can recommend it to the folks it would work for (that's one great thing about being a librarian, no read is ever wasted).

126bell7
Edited: Apr 22, 2009, 2:41pm Top

Still playing catchup...

45. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
Category: Recommended Reads

Amara, ready for her graduation exercise as a Cursor, travels disguised as a slave, hoping to confirm rumors of a renegade legion. Tavi is an orphan with no fury in a land where furycrafting as as common as breathing, but when he makes a discovery when trying to recover his sheep, the safety of his people suddenly rests on his shoulders.

A character-rich, in-depth world is introduced in this first book of the Codex Alera series. There's a lot of political maneuvering, and the point of view changes (primarily between Amara and Tavi) mean that the reader knows more than the individual characters. After about sixty pages, the pace quickly builds and never lets up. 4.5 stars.

127bell7
Apr 22, 2009, 2:45pm Top

46. Walden Two by B.F. Skinner
Category: Lost Book Club

A behavioral psychologist imagines a utopia based on principles of positive reinforcement and training peopl eto act in a way that benefits the community. Professor Burris narrates for us when he and some friends visit his old colleague Frazier, the founder of Walden Two. Each character is on varying levels of acceptance, as Frazier expounds on his Utopia; Castle, in particular, remains a determined skeptic, while Burris finds himself mediating between Castle and Frazier.

I was rather disappointed by this book. It was a fictional way of promoting Skinner's ideas, and there's no story outside of that, only Frazier promoting while Castle digs his heels in further. I remain unconvinced that it could work, and found myself getting annoyed that ultimately Frazier's reasoning was, "Well, you see it working before you" as he led his charges around Walden Two, when I don't know of any such successful community. Also, Skinner is a strict behaviorist and doesn't give much credence to the "nature" or genetic side of psychology. 3 stars.

128bell7
Apr 22, 2009, 2:57pm Top

47. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Category: Lost Book Club

The theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and the search for a unified theory of the universe are the subjects of this mindboggling explication of physics (I found I could read about 5 pages at a time without my brain hurting). Perhaps I was even more at a disadvantage for never having taken physics, though I did feel a little better when an engineer friend of mine told me that quantum mechanics is covered in Physics 3. Even so, it's ultimately a rewarding learning experience investigating the universe as we know it. I'm interested in learning more, and daresay I'll understand more for having persevered. 4.5 stars.

129bell7
Apr 22, 2009, 3:04pm Top

48. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Category: Nonfiction

Dr. Paul Farmer devotes much of his life to caring for the poor in Haiti, where diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS run rampant, made much worse by the abject poverty in which many Haitians live. Dr. Farmer is an absolutely driven man who keeps a crazy schedule, constantly advocates for his patrients, and expects a lot of himself and others. His story is both challenging and inspiring.

I read this for a community group read in my hometown. Kidder takes a very personal approach in writing this story, even showing up as a "character" from time to time. As a result, he emphasizes Dr. Farmer's personal approach to medicine and shows Dr. Farmer in a very human light. I thought it was neat that he loved The Lord of the Rings (and its influence could be seen throughout), and especially liked the story about how he asked a librarian to find another story "just like this one." Fantasy didn't work, but War and Peace did (I can only wonder how she came up with that - did she make a connection between the stories, or was she just frustrated?). 4.5 stars.

130bell7
Edited: May 5, 2009, 10:26am Top

49. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Category: New-to-me Authors

Lillian, now the owner of a restaurant, knows the magic of food. She discovered it for herself as a child, and now she shares it with her cooking classes, "The School of Essential Ingredients." The Prologue sets of the story like so: "Lillian knew that whatever their reasons for coming, at some moment in the course of the class each one's eyes would widen with joy or tears or resolution -- it always happened. The timing and reason would be different for each, and that's where the fascination lay. No two spices work the same" (3).

The story hinges on description and character, as we follow the course of the class and see each character's "moment" through his or her point of view. The descriptions are sometimes awkward but never boring or cliched. The tastes and smells of the kitchen are lovingly rendered. The characters are unique, and I enjoyed their back stories and internal growth. Like the food described, the story has a light flavor that doesn't bole you over with plot but asks you to savor and enjoy. 4.5 stars.

131cmbohn
Apr 22, 2009, 4:52pm Top

I read A Brief History of Time for the 888 challenge last year, and had the same feeling - I could read for so long, and then my brain just sort shut down. A very cool book, but not one I could read straight through.

132bell7
Apr 26, 2009, 8:32am Top

Yes, I felt the same. I'm sure I didn't comprehend all of it, either, but I was proud of myself for the accomplishment of finishing it and understanding/remembering as much as I did!

133bell7
Apr 28, 2009, 9:54am Top

50. Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
Category: Nonfiction

In 1883, the volcano on the island of Krakatau shocked the world by literally blowing the island apart. In this detailed account that starts with trading and the Dutch control of the area, describes the science of plate tectonics (which wasn't fully understood until some 80 years after), and then gives various eyewitness accounts of the eruption itself.

It's a fascinating account, and there is a lot of information packed into this book. I was rather surprised by the breadth of topics covered (trade, plate tectonics, even some biology) over a couple of hundred years (1600s-1900s). Still, Winchester writes engagingly without many technical terms, and there are ample pictures and graphs to aid as well. 4.5 stars.

134bell7
Edited: Apr 30, 2009, 11:04am Top

51. The Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
Category: Audiobooks

Polly Perks runs off to join the army, disguised as a boy, in an attempt to find her brother. Her country of Borogravia has been at war since nobody knows when and appears to be on its last leg when this group of recruits starts its journey. Pratchett explores serious subjects of war and gender relations while telling a story with his trademark humor and wit.

I'm having trouble summarizing the book & describing my thoughts, mostly because it took me almost a month to complete it and I can't remember how far along in the story certain things were revealed. I enjoyed the story, even in its goofiness and even when I could see where things were going. This seems to be another standalone in the Discworld series, though the three books I've read have all been parts of different mini-series, so unrelated to each other. I might try reading them in order now. 4.5 stars.

135bell7
Apr 30, 2009, 11:05am Top

52. Reimagining Shakespeare for Children and Young Adults, edited by Naomi J. Miller
Category: Nonfiction

This collection of essays discusses various adaptations of Shakespeare for children, critical viewpoints of Shakespeare's plays and adaptations, and pedagogy in teaching Shakespeare to grades K-12. Because this book is primarily and plays and teaching methods, I decided to put it in my Nonfiction category rather than Books about Books. Probably most useful for teachers (though part 1 about adaptations could also be of interest to parents and librarians), I found in reading these essays that I had a definite opinion about my own approach to Shakespeare, story, or really any sort of convention that becomes ingrained. Each author has his or her own unique perspective, but agreed most with those who would "play" with Shakespeare's words or story, arguing that this is exactly what Shakespeare himself did when he rewrote the works of those who came before him. If his work is not entirely original, do we really have to hold his work up as untouchable?

I enjoy reading and watching Shakespeare's plays, and I've enjoyed historical fiction like The Shakespeare Stealer and stories that play with Shakespeare like Lords and Ladies. So this exploration of Shakespeare and teaching was a fun read for me even though I am not a teacher and would not find the pedagogy portion of this useful in any practical way. I still managed to add a handful of books to my TBR list, from young adult novels like King of Shadows to more academic works like Shakespeare, the Movie. 4.5 stars.

136bell7
May 3, 2009, 8:11am Top

53. Slow Reading by John Miedema
Category: Books about Books/Reading/Writing

Based on the title, I assumed that Slow Reading would tell me all the things I'm doing wrong. I read at a fairly fast pace, averaging about two books a week, and often chose teen books over Literature. I expected that, while having an interesting premise, I would ultimately disagree with the author if he told me I should slow down and read only "good" books.

That's not what this book is about. "Slow reading" is less about pace (though that tends to be a factor) that it is a deliberate mental shift from task-oriented purpose to pleasure: "The most obvious sense of slowness in reference to quality is temporal - we stop racing against the clock to better appreciate a meal or a book" (43). In five short chapters, Miedema calls for a return to this pleasurable savoring of books, Literature or no. He draws on such diverse subjects as the connection between religion and slow reading, the innate differences between online and from-the-page reading, and neuroscience to make his points. Besides agreeing more than I thought I would, I found myself slow reading his book as I stopped to ponder my own reading experiences, talk back about a point that struck me, or looked through the thorough list of references in the back to follow up an intriguing idea. 4.5 stars.

137socialpages
May 3, 2009, 4:35pm Top

That sounds like an interesting book. So many times I race to finish a book, especially because I have 1001 to finish before I die, and I do not take the time to savour the writing. I have even been guilty of skim reading sections of books just because I have a huge tbr pile that needs attention.

What does Miedema feel is the difference between online and from-the-page reading? Although I hate reading books from sites such as Project Gutenberg, I have recently signed up for DailyLit and I do enjoy my daily emails with the next instalment of the book.

138bell7
May 4, 2009, 9:09am Top

Hi socialpages! He talks about studies that show that online reading tends to be skimming, particularly when you're talking about a large portion - that we look at headlines, pick out a word or a sentence here or there, but don't read everything (though he didn't cite it directly, I read an article once that talked about the "F-shaped pattern" that showed the direction our eyes go in, particularly skipping information on the right). Basically, he argues that technology is here to stay but the type of information that it's best for and the type of reading we do on e-books (like being able to search a word in a text) is simply different from reading a good old-fashioned book, which is better suited for large chunks of text and long periods of time.

139bell7
May 5, 2009, 10:35am Top

54. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Category: YA/Children's

Sophie and Josh, fraternal twins living in California for the summer, walk in on a magical fight between none other than Nicholas Flamel and Dr. John Dee. Flamel is the keeper of a book called the Codex, which Dee has been trying to steal for his masters, the Dark Elders, for ages. Now, Dee has the book and Nick's wife, and Sophie and Josh suddenly find themselves in a world where magic exists and legends live.

Definitely a fun read, pretty fast-paced except when a few pages of explication were thrown in, with all sorts of creatures and myths re-imagined. Set in modern-day U.S., my only real complaint is that often references to "modern" stuff is thrown in - Wiki (I think he meant Wikipedia?), movies - that sometimes miss the mark, like when there's a reference to Sophie seeing Titanic. I'm not saying she couldn't have, just that it seems to be an outdated reference since she would have been about one year old when it came out. But a small complaint about an overall enjoyable story - I've requested the second book from the library already. 4.5 stars.

140tracyfox
May 5, 2009, 1:47pm Top

Really enjoyed your review of Slow Reading. I've read a few popular nonfiction books (Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, The Long Tail, The Cluetrain Manifesto, Daniel Pink's book on left v. right brain, etc.) in Mobibook format on my Palm, felt they went really fast (which I attributed to the convenience of having them at hand to dip into at odd moments) and found them all kind of superficial. Now I need to reexamine that ... maybe the books weren't that superficial at all ... maybe it was just my reading.

141bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:09am Top

Hi, Tracyfox - I haven't read any of those nonfiction books, so I can't speak to their quality in particular. But I do notice that I've read differently on the web (scanning, taking things in quickly) than I do when I read, and that if it were a long, involved read I would definitely prefer a book. I remember that the one book I read as an e-book was for school, and it was hard to keep my focus for very long though I appreciated the keyword search function when I had to write a paper. It would interest me to know more about the cognitive difference between reading a book and listening to an audiobook (though I count both as reading, I'm assuming there must be one when you process one aurally).

If you're interested in more about Slow Reading, you might check out the Author Chat.

142bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:25am Top

55. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Category: Award Winners and Honors

When Harry Crewe's (don't ask her real first name) parents die, she has to move closer to her brother Richard, which means becoming the ward of Lady Amelia and Sir Charles. She falls in love with this wild Hill country and becomes embroiled in the political climate when Corlath, king of the Damarians, comes to parley with Sir Charles. Corlath's magic won't let him forget her, however, so he kidnaps her knowing she has some sort of part to play in the coming war with the Northerners.

I have no real complaints: the characters were interesting (I especially enjoyed reading when Corlath was on-scene), the story well told. But I never felt fully invested in the story, nor did I feel compelled to read if the book were not already in my hands. Probably a case of too much going on at the time. 4 stars.

143bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:30am Top

56. Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim
Category: Graphic Novels

On Grace's eighteenth birthday, she is suddenly visited by...herself. At the ages of six, twenty-nine, and seventy-something, to be precise. These doppelgangers may just change her life, if she can keep them out of trouble in the meantime.

This is a story all about character, as we learn about Grace and exactly what she could teach herself at each of these ages, varying from love to sibling rivalry. There's humor (Grace has to keep her 29-year-old self from hitting on the hot young English teacher) and more serious elements. Directly after finishing it, I would have given it 3 stars - a quick, light story that I didn't love, didn't dislike. But the next day, I was still thinking about some of the connections between the title and the construction of the story, so I'll give it 4.

144bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:36am Top

57. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
Category: Graphic Novels

After leaving home to go to school in Vienna at the end of Persepolis, Marjane moves from one home to another, all the while trying to fit in with classmates. Beginning when she was fourteen, she recounts rooming in a convent, her first love, and finally living on the streets before returning to Iran.

Her story of adolescence and young adulthood is heartbreaking. Much of the story is the theme of fitting in - or not - among others. Too Western here, too Eastern there, and feeling separated because of the vast differences between experience of war or love or what have you. Though the particulars may not seem familiar, the universal themes are completely relatable. 4.5 stars.

145bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:40am Top

58. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Category: YA/Children's

In this fifth and last installment of the "Percy Jackson" series, Percy's 16th birthday is fast approaching - and with it, the fulfillment of the Great Prophecy. When he returns to Camp Half-Blood, Percy finds a lot of things changed. Campers are gearing up for war with Kronos, and the Ares and Apollos cabins are at odds. Percy finally hears the Great Prophecy in its entirety, and is weighed down with its implications: Will his decision spell the end of Olympus?

I've so enjoyed this series of humorous Greek myth set in the United States and told from a boy hero's perspective. This one didn't disappoint, and though I'm sorry to see Percy go, the end seemed to leave open the possibility of more stories coming from Camp Half-Blood. 4.5 stars.

146bell7
May 18, 2009, 10:45am Top

59. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetts
Category: Award Winners and Honors

Taylor Markham's mother left her at the 7-11 on the Jellicoe Road. Six years later, Taylor is the House leader at her school and the school leader in the "territory wars" against the Townies and the Cadets. It doesn't help that the leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, is someone Taylor has something of a history with. On top of all this new responsibility, Taylor freaks when Hannah, the woman who found her at the 7-11 and took her in for a time, suddenly disappears.

This well-crafted story is told in two parts - Taylor's first-person, present tense narration and another story, interspersed here and there, about the survivors of a car crash on Jellicoe Road 22 years before Taylor's story. Though at first confusing, seeing the two narratives come together was a lot of fun, even after I'd figured out much of the connections. The story and characters will stay with me for a long time. 5 stars.

147bell7
May 21, 2009, 7:08am Top

60. As They See 'Em by Bruce Weber
Category: Nonfiction

Baseball has its fair share of books, but what about a book about the umpires? This is what reporter Bruce Weber sets out to do, starting with his stint at an umpire training school in Florida, and following with interviews with umps in the minor and major leagues. In between, he fills it out with some history (the changing strike zone, for instance) and recent events like the 1999 struggle between the MLB and the umpires' union.

My dad has umpired Little League since I was very young, so maybe I'm a little biased when I say I thought this was a fascinating account of a part of baseball that's largely overlooked. As Weber makes abundantly clear, if umpires are noticed at all it's usually the shouted profanity type of notice, and little credit is given to them for keeping the game running smoothly and making good close calls. His conversational style makes the book run by fast. 4.5 stars.

148detailmuse
May 22, 2009, 8:27am Top

>147 bell7: this brings to mind the trio of mid-1980s memoirs by reknown umpire Ron Luciano, especially The Umpire Strikes Back. Very funny stuff about the game and the legendary players and managers of that time.

149bell7
May 22, 2009, 8:59pm Top

>148 detailmuse:, I haven't read any umpire memoirs, but they might be fun to look into. Weber briefly goes over books that have been written about umpires in an early chapter, in which he mentions that some tales & anecdotes get recycled, even among the umpires he interviewed (I can't say if Luciano did that in his memoirs or not, having not read it). Other than the memoirs, though, there doesn't seem to be much on the subject.

150cmbohn
May 23, 2009, 12:20am Top

143 - So why was it called Good as Lily?

And I *LOVED* The Last Olympian! Worth the wait.

151bell7
May 23, 2009, 7:47am Top

>150 cmbohn: Lily was her sister's name, and it makes sense in the grand scheme of things, but I didn't want to give away too much of the story. :-) Thinking about the title was part of the reason I gave it a higher star rating after a day of digesting it.

The Last Olympian was fantastic! I love that series and can't wait til my younger sister reads them so I can discuss them with her. (She's 11 - she'll probably give me one of those looks and tell me that they were only OK and not want to talk any more...)

152bell7
May 24, 2009, 9:26pm Top

61. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Category: Recommended

When the Sarajevo Haggadah is discovered, saved in a bank vault by the museum curator, Hanna Heath has the opportunity of a lifetime to conserve this beautiful book. The haggadah has survived against the odds, and Hanna's research gives her tantalizing glimpses of where the book has been while readers learn even more about the book's true history and the "people of the book" who impacted (and were impacted by) the amazing artifact.

This well-crafted story is the imagined history of a true artifact, a Jewish haggadah from medieval times with lovely illuminations. In an afterward, Brooks quickly writes about what is and isn't known about its history, and it's a fascinating exploration of what might have been. I love that the book itself is essentially a character and the details about conservation work. 4.5 stars.

153bell7
May 26, 2009, 9:44am Top

62. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
Category: Graphic Novels

This hair-lassoing girl doesn't need a prince to do any rescuing for her. Once she finds out that Mother Gothel isn't her mother at all and her real mother is forced to work in the mines, Rapunzel plans her way out of the tree in which she is imprisoned. She then plots revenge on Gothel and the rescue of her mother. Along the way, other fairy tales and well-known characters emerge, re-imagined in this funny, quick read. 4 stars.

154bell7
May 27, 2009, 9:47am Top

63. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (technically I finished this before People of the Book, but forgot to review it)
Category: Audiobooks (CATEGORY COMPLETE 5/25/09)

If you haven't read the first book in this series, Ender's Game, this is a **spoiler alert** for that story.

Three thousand years after Ender defeated the Buggers, another alien group is in danger of being eradicated due to a similar misunderstanding. On Lusitania, the "piggies" are kept separate from people, except those few privileged to study their way of life while never giving away anything about human culture or technology. The peace on Lusitania is threatened, however, when one of these humans is brutally killed by the piggies. No one exactly knows why, but one of his apprentices, Novenha, knows it has something to do with information she learned. She calls for a Speaker of the Dead and Ender (who has been traveling a lot at near-light-speed and has only aged to about 29 due to the relativity of time) answers the call.

Perhaps this was not the best book to choose as an audiobook to listen to as I fell asleep, and this certainly had an impact on my enjoyment of the story. First, the particular audio version I listened to had 3 narrators, who switched off based on the point of view the narrative was coming from (it was always third person, but we see events from several different perspectives). So I had to get used to about 3 different interpretations of different people's voices. Secondly, it's a complicated story that took me about three weeks to listen to, long enough that I didn't always remember exactly what happened and didn't have the ability to flip back a few chapters and refresh my memory. Still, I would recommend it to those who had enjoyed Ender's Game and didn't mind something a little meatier. Speaker for the Dead raises ethical questions about leaving different cultures alone to preserve them, and has a lot to say about the power of speaking the truth. 4 stars.

155bell7
May 27, 2009, 10:01am Top

64. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Category: Lost Book Club

The unnamed narrator crashes his plane in the desert and comes across the little prince, an alien boy visiting earth from asteroid B-612, who has a lot to say about a child's faith and matters of "consequence."

This is a rather strange little story, and I'm afraid to say to much about it without giving out spoilers, since it's only 91 pages long. Imagination, faith, and the inability of most grown-ups to see what is truly important are recurring themes. 4 stars.

In all fairness, this may be stretching the "Lost" category. Though there was an episode entitled "The Little Prince," the book doesn't show up on abc.com or on the lostpedia.com list of Literary works, so take from that what you will. :-)

156bell7
May 28, 2009, 10:53am Top

65. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Category: Recommended

Lia's former best friend Cassie has died of unknown causes. Though the girls haven't spoken in months, Cassie called 33 times before she died - and Lia didn't pick up. But Lia can cope. She's strong. After all, she's managed to control her calorie intake and her weight for a really long time now.

Welcome to the world of an anorexic, as eighteen-year-old Lia tells you exactly what's going on in her head. "Enjoy" is definitely the wrong word for this book, but it's powerful and heart-wrenching and I couldn't put it down. Lia's first-person narration makes her story all the more immediate; as a reader, I felt for her while still being able to see her emotional and psychological downward spiral. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

157bell7
May 28, 2009, 9:18pm Top

66. The Magician: The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Category: YA/Children's

If you haven't read the first book, The Alchemyst, this is a *spoiler alert* for that title.

After going through the ley gate, Nicholas, Sophie and Josh find themselves in Paris. Sophie is Awakened; Josh is not. This puts them somewhat in conflict with each other, even as they find out more about their powers and find themselves up against Machiavelli (yep, he's immortal too).

Well-paced and a fun read. Small things bugged me in this one, like the first, but I'll keep reading 'cause I want to know what happens. 4 stars.

158avatiakh
Jun 1, 2009, 12:31am Top

I love it when I come to a thread full of great books that I've already read. We must have similar taste in our reading as Jellicoe road, People of the Book, Speaker for the Deadwere all 4 -5 star reads for me too.

159bell7
Jun 1, 2009, 4:20pm Top

Hi, avatiakh, thanks for stopping by! Yes, it is really fun to find folks with similar taste. :-) I took a look at your thread, and immediately requested Heroes of the Valley from the library - I absolutely loved the Bartimaeus Trilogy and can't wait to read something new by Jonathan Stroud.

160socialpages
Jun 1, 2009, 4:48pm Top

I have seen a lot of good reviews for books by Laurie Halse Anderson and after reading your review I am wondering if she is a YA writer or if this book just happened to deal with an issue that mostly affects the younger generation.

161bell7
Edited: Jun 1, 2009, 4:52pm Top

socialpages, the books that I've read by her are all YA - Fever 1793 and Catalyst, for example - but it's possible she's written books for adults that I'm not familiar with. I would highly recommend any of those books, and also have Speak on my TBR list, as I've heard many good things about it.

Edited to fix touchstone.

162bell7
Edited: Jun 3, 2009, 10:12am Top

67. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
Category: Lost Book Club

This is a collection of nine short stories, seven of which had been previously published, that was published posthumously. Each is well-crafted, packs an emotional punch, and develops realistic characters in approximately 20 pages. Probably my favorites were "The Enduring Chill" and "Revelation."

I hadn't read any of Flannery O'Connor's writing before this story collection. This is the second of her works to be reference in Lost - the first was The Third Policeman. (You'd think I would've noticed, but the author of this title is actually Flann O'Brien - my mistake.) This was the one that Jacob was reading when Locke fell out of the window, and I can't help but think that (*spoiler warning*) it was a bit of foreshadowing, as most of the stories involve someone's death in the end. I'm kind of interested in reading The Third Policeman now, though. I'm interested in reading more of her works. 4 stars.

163bell7
Jun 3, 2009, 8:16am Top

68. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa
Category: Graphic Novels

A young child's idyllic life is threatened by the sudden appearance of three "shadows" on horseback. His parents want to help, but don't know what to do to keep their boy safe.

On a recent "Book Lust" (Nancy Pearl) podcast, her guest recommended five graphic novels to read, and this was one of them. The artwork, seemingly simple with its lines and shading, manages to convey emotion, sound, fear - and becomes an important element of the story of Joachim and his parents. 4.5 stars.

164bell7
Jun 3, 2009, 6:34pm Top

So, I gave in and set up a 999 x 2 challenge. The thread is here for anyone interested in following, though I haven't filled out any books yet. I'm going to start soon, probably before I've quite finished up here just to keep my options open. :-)

165andreablythe
Jun 4, 2009, 1:01pm Top

I won't get anywhere near a 999x2. I will definitely finish my own challenge, but beyond that... no way.

Kudos to you and others, though. It's impressive.

166bell7
Jun 4, 2009, 8:38pm Top

Thanks, blythe. I don't really know if I'll manage to finish it or not - I always find I get more reading done the first half of the year for some reason. But it'll be fun to try.

167bell7
Jun 9, 2009, 11:54am Top

69. Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
Category: YA/Children's (Category Completed 6/9/09)

Halli who is dark and short is unlike his family, the descendants of the hero Svein, as it is possible to be. The second son of the Arbiter is not expected to do much besides farm a bit of land while his older brother, Lief, will someday become Arbiter and his sister Gudny will make a good marriage. Halli longs for adventures like those of the twelve heroes, but all he seems to do is get in trouble.

A fun, well-told fantasy by the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy (which I loved). I liked the characters, especially Aud and Halli. The book seems to be a standalone, but I wouldn't say no to a sequel. :-) 4.5 stars.

168bell7
Jun 9, 2009, 12:00pm Top

70. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Category: Recommended (sister)

In 1967, Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder" and sent to McLean's in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. She stayed there for nearly two years, and in short, non-chronological vignettes describes her life there and shortly after being released.

My sister, a psych major, recommended this book to me awhile back when I asked various members of my family for book recommendations. Kaysen brings up questions of sanity that sometimes reminded me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - how do we know where the "border" is between sane and insane, especially when those definitions change over time? The disjointed narrative suited her account, but made it kind of hard for me to follow what was going on. 4 stars.

169bonniebooks
Jun 11, 2009, 3:09pm Top

I would not have wanted to encounter those books as a teenager. I remember my greatest fear back then was that I could be taken to a mental hospital and wouldn't be able to convince them that I wasn't crazy because I would be crazy just by having to be in those controlled conditions...LOL! One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest did not help abate those fears! ;-)

170bell7
Jun 11, 2009, 9:23pm Top

Yeah, I think as a teen I wouldn't have liked it much and come away with a lot more fear than anything else (same with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, though it's stylistically very different). As it was, it was sort of interesting to step back and think about how the definitions of disorders change either because people understand them better or because ideas of normal behavior has changed.

171bell7
Jun 17, 2009, 2:39pm Top

71. Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Category: Books about Books

After writing 84, Charing Cross Road, at long last Helene Hanff's dream of going to London is going to be realized! This is her diary of that trip, in which she meets Frank Doel's wife and daughter, friends old and new, and gets to see the sights she's always wanted to see.

Her descriptions of London and the people she meets made me want to come along for the trip. She knew delightful details about literary London, places I never would have heard of otherwise but now wish I could see too. Even her disappointments are humorously, wittily expressed in this charming account. 4.5 stars.

172bell7
Jun 17, 2009, 2:49pm Top

72. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Category: Lost Book Club

From page one, the reader is clearly told that this is a fable in which "there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in-between anywhere." In this parable, Kino lives with his wife Juana and son, Coyotito, living simply as a pearl diver. Coyotito is stung by a scorpion, and since Kino is poor he cannot pay for the doctor to help his boy. Then, he finds the Pearl of the World and plans on changing his life for the better, forever.

Steinbeck has a knack for describing things briefly but powerfully and memorably, an aspect of this story that I definitely enjoyed. The story is short and simple and, like any parable, has a moral to it. I think the reason I didn't love it was that I never quite felt connected to the characters, and I wasn't entirely happy with what the story was (I seem to not have a good track record with Steinbeck on this). 3 stars.

173cmbohn
Jun 17, 2009, 3:52pm Top

168 - I just can't read books like that now, since both of my daughters are struggling with mental illness. It is too painful. It's hard enough to live with it every day; I sure don't want to have to read about it.

174bell7
Jun 17, 2009, 6:31pm Top

>173 cmbohn:, my prayers are with your daughters & family. I can definitely see how that would be a book you wouldn't want to read - I don't think I would've when a relative of mine was struggling with depression a few years back.

175bell7
Jun 17, 2009, 7:43pm Top

73. Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier, illustrated by Ben Templeton
Category: Graphic Novel (category complete 6/17/09)

If you read The Looking Glass Wars and wondered what happened to Hatter Madigan was while Alyss was in England, look no furhter than this graphic novel series. In volume 1, Hatter Madigan finds himself separated from Alyss in a strange world where Imagination is not often found. He absolutely must find Princess Alyss!

Ostensibly the findings of a society, complete with historical artifacts in the back, the story is an excellent companion to the Looking Glass Wars series. The art work is well done, with blurred action sequences and dark cities during Hatter Madigan's wanderings. I look forward to reading more of his adventures. 4.5 stars.

176bell7
Jun 27, 2009, 2:07pm Top

74. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Category: Lost Book Club

Many are familiar with this classic tale, so I won't repeat a plot synopsis here. Since it's fantasy, children's, and classic, I feel like I should like it more than I do. I first read it as a child, and what stood out for me (and got annoying, to be plain) was Alice's continual size changes. It's a very strange, meandering story that got exciting but ended in what seemed to me to be a bit of a cop out. On rereading it, I still didn't love it and found it rather difficult to follow on audio as well. An alright story, but not one of my favorites. 4 stars.

177bell7
Edited: Jun 30, 2009, 9:31am Top

75. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Category: Nonfiction (Category Completed 6/30/09)

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the universe or the workings of a cell? This introduction to many different branches of science gives you a taste of the history of how we know what we know (and what we think we know) about the world and how it works. Giving a brief overview of such diverse scientific disciplines as physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and lots more, you may find yourself frustrated by only being given a taste of one subject before Bryson moves on to another. But the extensive notes and bibliography at the end will show you where to go next for those subjects that most interest you, and Bryson's characteristically witty narration will keep you reading even during those explorations you may not have found interesting in school.

I was most fascinated to discover the reasons behind current scientific thought, and how much we really don't know about the earth and our universe. Since I read A Brief History of Time a few months before picking up this title, I was inevitably comparing and contrasting, especially during the early chapters when Bryson covers similar subjects, related to physics and the universe. Though the science in both sets my head spinning if I read too much in one sitting, the tone of the narrative is much different. I would recommend reading this title first (assuming you feel like reading both), if only because it's written by a layperson for a layperson rather than by a scientist for a layperson. 4.5 stars.

Edited to add category info.

178bell7
Edited: Jul 3, 2009, 9:56am Top

76. Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
Category: Books about Books (Category Completed 7/3/09)

The third in a set of memoirs by Helene Hanff begins before the others, when she had to drop out of college during the Depression. Visiting the library, she found a set of books - the lectures of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - to teach herself about writing and English literature. With the success of her memoirs, 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Helene had no idea how far-reaching indeed his influence would turn out to be.

I love these books for Helene's sense of humor and quick wit. She has excellent timing for both comedy and poignancy. Her delightful descriptions of Q's lectures made me want to read them, too. Though 84 Charing Cross Road is forever my favorite of her three memoirs, Q's Legacy is a lovely capstone of her memories of both books and her tribute to the man who taught her to write through his published lectures. 4.5 stars.

179bell7
Edited: Jul 13, 2009, 6:43pm Top

77. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Category: Lost Book Club

Before starting the audiobook with Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, I couldn't remember if I'd read Through the Looking Glass before or not. As I listened, I realized I had. I'm even decently sure that I finished it (twice now, counting the audiobook). But I still have no idea what happened. Like the dream it is, the action jumps from place to place and from person to person, and is only loosely connected by the story of Alice crossing a chessboard to become queen. I liked it less than the original "Alice." 3 stars.

Regarding the connections to Lost, interested parties might like checking out Lostpedia.com's rather extensive article "Alice in Wonderland" that lists more connections that I ever made reading the books (for example, Charlie's wearing checkerboard shoes when they go to the Looking Glass station).

180bell7
Jul 13, 2009, 6:43pm Top

78. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
Category: Award Winners and Honors

This second volume in the Octavian Nothing series begins right when the first left off, with Octavian and Dr. Trefusis running away from the College of Lucidity. Their flight through the rain and mud-flats leaves Dr. Trefusis with a terrible fever, and Octavian must find a place for them to stay and a way to pay for lodgings - not an easy task for a runaway slave in Boston, a city under siege during the Revolution.

This is merely the beginning of a long (560 p.) continuance of the story begun in The Pox Party. As the first, it is well-constructed from the voice of the characters to the rough-cut pages and old-fashioned title page and type. The story is an intelligent, complex look at the ideals of liberty and the hypocrisy of those who would cry "liberty" for themselves while condemning others to slavery. Though not for the fainthearted because of length, vocabulary, and descriptions of war, for those willing to persevere the story provides much food for thought. 4.5 stars.

181bell7
Jul 27, 2009, 3:47pm Top

79. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Category: New-to-me authors (Category Complete 7/26/09)

Clary lives with her mom; her father died in a car accident before she was born. At least, that's what she's always been told. But when she and her best friend Simon go to a club and she sees some people - and something - that Simon can't, she knows something's up. Finding out the truth will turn her world upside-down.

Cassandra Clare's imaginary world, set in New York, is really well-realized with vampires, werewolves, demons, and more. Clary meets the Shadowhunters (also known as Nephilim), a group of people dedicated to killing demons. The characters are wonderfully complex, so much so that even the "good guys" seem a little nefarious. The fast-paced plot kept me up reading late last night, and I immediately put the next two books in the trilogy on hold from the library after finishing. 4.5 stars.

182bell7
Aug 13, 2009, 9:25pm Top

80. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Category: Recommendations

David Copperfield is the narrator of his life from boyhood through young adulthood, an account that in some ways mirrors Dickens' own life. It begins with David's own birth and his Aunt Betsey Trotwood's disappointment that he was not a girl. David's father was already dead, and his mother eventually remarried a man who believed in "firmness." So begins Master Copperfield's tale.

This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years, those classics that I enjoy but only seem to get a chance to read over the summer. The length is daunting and the story starts slowly, which was much of the reason the book took me so long to finish. It was well worth it, however, as I was introduced to some of the most memorable characters - Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, Mr. Dick, Uriah Heep, and my personal favorite Miss Betsey Trotwood - that I have ever encountered. I'm sure I will read it again. 4.5 stars.

Just one book left!

183bell7
Aug 20, 2009, 8:30am Top

81. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Category: Recommendations (completed 8/19/09)

Susie Salmon recounts her murder and over the ensuing years, watches from heaven over her family as they deal with their grief. Having Susie as the narrator gives the reader a semi-omnipotent view of events, as Susie knows who her killer is, can watch the action in two places at the same time, and can tell us the thoughts and emotions of the other characters. Though disjointed at times, some passages of narration are lovely and thought-provoking.

My brother recommended this to me, warning me that the beginning might be a little much for me. It was gruesome, but not as violent as I'd anticipated. As might be expected, the story is a little sad and even though the setup was a little surreal to begin with I found a few elements stretching my ability to suspend disbelief. A really intense read that will stay with me for awhile. 4.5 stars.

184bell7
Aug 20, 2009, 8:33am Top

W00t! That's my first 999 challenge - join me on my second thread here for the second challenge that will probably not be completed. :-)

185detailmuse
Aug 20, 2009, 9:22am Top

Congratulations!! Love to see that star shining at the end of your ticker up in msg 1!

186Yells
Aug 20, 2009, 12:12pm Top

Congrats! I love your 'Lost' category. Every time they mention a book on the show, I feel like I should read it because it might explain something further about the show (and maybe I wouldn't be quite so 'lost').

You have some interesting titles that I will have to add to my TBR pile.

187cmbohn
Aug 20, 2009, 1:22pm Top

Great job!

188chrine
Aug 20, 2009, 3:13pm Top

Hola Bell. Totally enjoyed reading through the last half of your challenge this morning (from book 28), especially liked your Lost category. Heading over to check out your second challenge now.

189bonniebooks
Aug 20, 2009, 6:06pm Top

I'm one of those who loved your "Lost" category as well. Are you going to do a "Best of..." for each group? No pressure, just interested. Congrats from me too!

190RidgewayGirl
Aug 20, 2009, 7:58pm Top

Congratulations! I'm glad you're sticking around with your second challenge.

191bell7
Aug 22, 2009, 2:04pm Top

detailmuse, bucketyell, cmbohn, chrine, bonniebooks, RidgewayGirl -

Wow! Thanks for the congrats. The Lost category was a tough one to finish because it stretched my reading the most. Not sure how much insight it really gave me, but it was fun and I'm keeping the category for the 2nd challenge, even though I'm cheating a bit. I'm planning on using more rereads, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (even though the only reference is a comment Hurley makes about Sawyer's reading glasses) to give myself a bit more of a break.

bonniebooks, I will have to think about a "best of" - it would be fun, but I'm going to have to go back over my reviews to remind myself of my thoughts.

192bell7
Aug 26, 2009, 1:49pm Top

Alright, Bonnie, all your listing is prompting me to create a "best of" list for my categories! So here they are:

1. Award winners - The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Volume 1 and Jellicoe Road TIED
2. New (to me) authors - The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3. Books about books, reading, or writing - The Pleasure of Reading and Housekeeping vs. The Dirt TIED
4. Other nonfiction - The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
5. Audiobooks - Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
6. Graphic novels (not including manga) - Maus by Art Spiegelman
7. Random Recommendations - Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
8. YA/Children's - The Last Knight by Hilari Bell
9. Books referred to on Lost - A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

So, in Award Winners and Books about Books I had two I can't decide between that will most likely be top contenders in my favorites for the year.

193VictoriaPL
Aug 27, 2009, 2:00pm Top

congrats!

194bonniebooks
Aug 27, 2009, 2:08pm Top

Love these "Best of" lists! :-) It's a good kind of virus! Aaachoo!

195bell7
Aug 28, 2009, 9:44am Top

>193 VictoriaPL: Thanks, Victoria!

>194 bonniebooks: ahh...the lists! I almost forgot Till We Have Faces over on your thread because it was a non-999 challenge read. Making lists is fun...and seeing what I've read from other people's lists is even more fun...but my TBR list is completely out of control. Better than the alternative of nothing to read, I suppose. I never have that problem anymore. :-)

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